Thursday, November 18, 2010
With the holidays quickly approaching I have begun to think about and look forward to all the elements of the Christmas season; the lights, the tree, spending time with family, the food, and of course...Santa! Santa Claus is a figure that is a part of many people's childhood. Going to the local church or mall and sitting on Santa's lap is a holiday tradition that many have experienced. Santa is clearly prevalent in our society, but is he a leader? Let's take a closer look.
One way of determining whether or not Santa is a leader is by looking at what type of power he holds, if any. It could be argued that Santa has legitimate power as described in Power, Influence, and Influence Tactics by Hughes et al. Essentially the North Pole operates as a toy manufacturing and delivery organization. Santa's organizational role would be equivalent to CEO. He is the decision maker, he is in charge of all the elves and no one has the power to overrule Santa (except maybe Mrs. Clause but let's not go there). Hughes points out that in terms of legitimate power, the leader only maintains authority as long as he "occupies that position and operates within proper bounds of that role" (Hughes et al 1993). My absolute favorite Christmas movie is the Disney classic The Santa Clause. In this movie, the previous Santa stopped being Santa when Tim Allen's character, Scott Calvin, scared him which caused him to fall off his roof. At the request of his son Scott put on Santa's suit and by order of the Santa Clause he then immediately assumed the role of Santa. So, we can see that prior to assuming this role Scott had no power over the elves and the children that believed in Santa. It was only when he took this position that he gained legitimate power.
It could also be argued that Santa holds reward power. To review, reward power "involves the potential to influence others due to control over desired resources" (Hughes et al 1993). Obviously, Santa has the power to either leave you that present that you've been dreaming of and looking forward to for weeks, or he can leave you a big old lump of coal. When I was a kid and I started acting up all it took was my mom uttering the words "Santa's watching" to quickly get me back in line. Clearly Santa has control over the resources and this gives him power.
Although it is clear that according to Hughes et al Santa is a leader, I pose the following question:
Is Santa still a leader even though he is a fictional character?
Hughes, Richard L, Rovert C. Ginnett, and Gordon J. Curphy, "Power, Influence, and Influence Tactics," from Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience, Richard D. Irwin, Inc. 1993.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Due to my love for country music and given the fact that Nashville, TN is in the Country Music Capitol of the World, I deemed it appropriate to write a blog on the "King of Country Music". George Strait is the epitome of a rustic cowboy turned country superstar, but his down-home roots and southern hospitality have never left him. This “king” does not wear a crown per se, but he does sport a cowboy hat on every occasion. Nonetheless, these are just small pieces to a big puzzle that makes this musician perfect to observe from a leadership standpoint. A troubadour like himself has carried a strong vision throughout his career and has picked up many followers along the way. Never before in the history of music has a musician captivated a crowd with his talents more so than the living legend George Strait. By looking at him and his career through the lens of theorist Marshall Sashkin, many of you may soon realize that he is practically speaking about this cowboy throughout his article called “Visionary Leadership”.
When George first started his professional career in the 1970’s, the country music scene was growing in popularity at a fast rate. Building off the success of Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Hank Williams, many honky-tonk bands moved to Tennessee to jump on the fast moving train to stardom. Within this mass of musicians, was a committed 30-something named George Strait and his band named the “Ace in the Hole”. As time played out, many of the musicians were unable to find the stardom they had hoped for and soon had to resort to prototypical jobs outside the music industry. Why did this not happen to George you ask? A quote from Erv Woosley sums it up quite well, “his music is clean-cut and his country-roots are still preferable, even in the new stages of our music”. In this case, George would have exemplified what theorist Marshall Sashkin (1989) believed since he created an ideal image of the way the country music culture should be. As it can be seen, George and his band had a vision of what country music stood for and they stuck with it even though others were changing.
Refusing to abandon the old-time Nashville twang and carrying it on through the 20th century was George’s plan all along. His refusal in this area is how he became the icon and visionary leader he is today. According to the theorist Marshall Sashkin (1989), a leader must also “define a philosophy that succinctly states the vision… that puts the philosophy into practice” (pg.402). The connection here is apparent due to George’s solid stand for pure country music since it has now evolved into more of country-pop and country-rock. The country legend puts his philosophy into practice by simply recording and playing what he believes country music is. If one was to look at his record-setting 57 #1 hits over his career, they would understand that his vision has not kept him from reaching the stardom he once hoped for.
Lastly, Marshall Sashkin states a visionary leader must create his own actions around the vision to support it (1989). If you were to listen to George Strait’s first hit single “Unwound” and compared it to his 57th #1 hit “I Saw God Today”, it would be hard for you to distinguish a difference between each. That is almost 40 years of simple, down-home, country music! The consistency that he has shown has been unparalleled in almost all genres of music. In most cases, musicians must evolve with the time to continue to capture the hearts of their followers, but George has never strayed from his dusty ole path. Rather than pushing us in the direction he wants to go, George “pulls” us along with him (Sashkin, 1989). All in all, I believe that Sashkin (1989) would have given George very high grades in the all three of the major categories he describes in his article “Visionary Leadership”. With that being said, I am thankful that George has been so steadfast with his views because I can not picture country music without him, ever.
Three Questions to Consider
• Would country music be the same without George Strait’s vision?
• Would George Strait have the success he had if he had changed his vision?
• Does a leader have a vision when it is ever-changing or adjusting?
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Princess Diana is the epitome of a servant leader. A “great leader is seen as a servant first, and the simple fact is the key to her greatness. What she is deep down inside” (Greenleaf, 19). In her effort to serve others, Princess Diana brought awareness of AIDS research and hunger awareness in impoverished countries, showed empathy towards people with leprosy when it was still seen as an untouchable disease, and fought against the use of land mines. She exhibited the core traits of a servant leader, such as listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people and building community (Sendjaya, 57). Former President Bill Clinton recapitulated her servant leader traits in a 1987 quote:
"In 1987, when so many still believed that AIDS could be contracted through casual contact, Princess Diana sat on the sickbed of a man with AIDS and held his hand. She showed the world that people with AIDS deserve no isolation, but compassion and kindness. It helped change world opinion, and gave hope to people with AIDS with an outcome of saved lives of people at risk."
Princess Diana had one of the largest followings in the world. She was known as the “people’s princess,” and by helping others was able to bridge the gap between the royal family and its constituents. Her followers’ development in social issues was a result of “the strength of the servant leadership movement and its many links to encouraging follower learning, growth and autonomy” (Sendjaya, 57). During her reign, she was able to mobilize millions of people to change their views on AIDS and worked with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines that received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. Princess Diana believed “everyone needs to be valued. Everyone has the potential to give something back if only they had the chance” (www.biography-online.net). She spread knowledge about social issues that led to the growth and strength of people groups that were otherwise overlooked by society.
There is a strong biblical relationship between charisma and servant leadership. Princess Diana was able to “empower her followers by enhancing their perceptions of self-efficacy and their confidence in their ability to overcome obstacles, by using verbal persuasion and verbal recognition, and by functioning as a role model” (Choi, 28). The charismatic quality of Princess Diana’s “individual personality by virtue of which she is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at the least specifically exceptional qualities” (Sendjaya, 61). When Princess Diana visited the sick or oppressed, she was seen as extraordinary by her followers.
In defining Princess Diana as a servant leader, it is important to differentiate a servant leader from a transformational leader. Servant leadership exceeds transformational leadership (Bass) in two ways 1) “its recognition of the leaders social responsibilities to serve those people who are marginalized by a system 2) its dedication to followers needs and interests as opposed to those of their own or their organization” (Sendjaya, 62). Princess Diana advocated for people who otherwise would not have a voice because of the social system that existed in the United Kingdom and dedicated herself to the mission of her followers and the people she served as opposed to her position as Princess of Wales.
Theorists Choi and Mai-Dalton question the authenticity of servant leadership, saying “it could merely be nothing but a tactic to impress followers and manipulate their responses to reciprocate,” however, what would Princess Diana have to personally gain from serving others (Sendjaya, 60)? Princess Diana was first a servant, than a leader. Her works as a servant compelled her to lead. “The servant leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead” (Greenleaf, 22). Princess Diana’s legacy is left up to her followers to fulfill. As a servant leader, she provided the education and example to her followers, now it is up to them to live out her mission.
Do you think Kate Middleton exhibits the same servant-like characteristics of Princess Diana and will follow her example as princess? Did Princess Diana’s strong servant leadership style interfere with her ability to be an effective member of the royal family? Did Princess Diana emerge as a servant leader because of her position as princess, or did her position make her a servant leader?
Monday, November 15, 2010
Desmond Tutu was the first black Anglican Archbishop of South Africa and was an outspoken critic of apartheid—the government-sanctioned segregation of whites and blacks in South Africa from 1948 to 1994. In 1995, Nelson Mandela appointed Tutu as chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was a court-like body that allowed the victims of human rights violations to confront their perpetrators. During these sessions, both sides would share their experiences of apartheid, and the perpetrators could request amnesty. Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace prize in 1984.
Don’t Deny The Past
Desmond Tutu argued that true reconciliation between blacks and whites could not be achieved by denying the past; that the nation must bring to light the atrocities perpetrated against the blacks. In this regard, Tutu demonstrates a key characteristic of great leaders—he moves forward by first understanding the past (DePree 1992). According to DePee, “Leaders move constantly back and forth between the present and the future. Our perception of each becomes clear and valid if we understand the past […] the past gives us the opportunity to build on the work of elders” (1992). Tutu says that in forgiving, people are not asked to forget. On the contrary, it is important to remember, so that we should not let such atrocities happen again.
Empathy For Your Oppressors
Tutu says that forgiveness involves trying to understand the perpetrators and to have empathy; to try to stand in their shoes and appreciate the sort of pressures and influences that might have conditioned them. Choi says, “Empathy indicates the ability to understand another person’s motives, values, and emotions, and it involves entering the other person’s perspectives” (Choi 2006). Tutu believes that the victims of apartheid must find a way to understand the motives of the white government in order to forgive. While he admits that standing before individuals who have openly confessed to beating, raping and murdering members of one’s family would be difficult, it would be the only way to move forward.
Take A Stand For The Good
Desmond Tutu spoke out against apartheid and encouraged his followers to take non-violent action against the government. As Burns says, “Leadership is the reciprocal process of mobilizing, by persons with certain motives and values, […] in order to realize goals independently or mutually held by both leaders and followers” (1978). Tutu believed that the people of South Africa must take a stand on the side of good and oppose the social system of apartheid. According to Heifitz, “We have to take sides. When we teach, write about, and model the exercise of leadership, we inevitably support or challenge people’s conceptions of themselves, their roles, and most importantly their ideas about how social systems make progress on problems” (1998). In this regard, Tutu viewed his opposition as a moral stand and, ultimately, his values were guiding his decision.
Become A Servant
Tutu essentially became a servant of his followers—he gave voice to the people in South Africa who opposed apartheid in a manner that was completely selfless. Servant leaders “are challenging the pervasive injustice with greater force and they are taking sharper issue with the wide disparity between the quality of society they know is reasonable and possible with available resources” (Greenleaf 1977). Tutu acted as a servant of the black South Africans by putting himself in potentially dangerous situations in order to advance a cause for the good of his followers.
The Desmond Tutu Centre for Leadership: http://www.c4l.org/
Desmond Tutu on Leadership:
Burns, James MacGregor. "Toward a General Theory." In Leadership. NY, 1978.
Choi, Jaepil. "A Motivational Theory of Charismatic Leadership." Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 2006.
DePree, Max. "The Attributes of Leadership: A Checklist." In Leadership Jazz. NY, 1992.
Greenleaf, Robert. "Servant Leadership." In Servant Leadership. Paulist Press, 1977.
Heifitz, R. "Values in Leadership." In Leadership Without Easy Answers. Boston: Harvard University Press, 1998.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Adolf Hitler is one of the most infamous characters in world history, known for his leadership in the Nazi Party and his role as chancellor of Germany in the early 1930s. After the devastating results of World War II and the Holocaust, can Hitler be considered a leader despite the damages he influenced? What aspects of his behavior and his reign as Germany’s dictator allow him to be characterized as a leader, and what qualities force us to closely examine our definition of leadership?
As a leader, Hitler maintained legitimate power, however he could achieve it (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy). When Hitler joined the Nazi Party, he felt that the leadership was divided and ineffective, paving the perfect path for him to take over. While there were many in the party who disapproved of his personal ambition, most recognized his abilities to generate public attention for the party; therefore, when Hitler threatened to resign in 1921, the other members decided to grant him overall leadership because they knew they needed his expertise.
Throughout his rule, Hitler maintained a mission and outlook that Sashkin would say fulfills the requirements of visionary leadership. He constructed a vision that stated the “Aryan race” was superior to all and “defin[ed] an organizational philosophy” that supported this inequality. Hitler and the Nazi party practiced what they believed in, starting the “new order” and expelling Jews from Germany by any means possible, including extermination. Despite the lack of respectable values, Hitler is a leader according to Sashkin’s definition.
While there are several definitions where Hitler can be considered a leader, there are many others that would denounce his leadership because it is lacking in respected morals and a relationship with his followers. Hitler projected a personalized charismatic leadership, a style that is “exploitative, non-egalitarian, and self-aggrandizing” (Choi). He was extremely focused on his personal control, insisting that the “ultimate authority rested with him and extended downward” (BBC). He assumed other positions so that ultimately he would have even more legitimate power, whether or not it was the best move for his party. This style is extremely dangerous for those who followed Hitler, as they were not heard, often punished for wrongdoings, and became supporters of the morally repugnant “new order.” Hitler harmed his party through his unrelenting control and lack of concern for others. Rather than create a collaborative and inclusive environment, as Burns would encourage, Hitler believed in giving direct orders without many others’ input.
Hitler was known for heavily critiquing those who reported to him and became angry and frustrated with mistakes. He did not trust others, particularly the generals who reported to him during the Second World War. Without establishing a two-way relationship, Hitler could not, and would not, rely on the opinions of others, resorting to his instincts and opinions. As a leader, he did little to build a relationship with his followers, focusing on direct control rather than mutual communication. McGregor writes, “Leadership is not a property of the individual, but a complex relationship among these variables.” Hitler underplayed and often ignored the characteristics of his followers, the characteristics of the Nazi Party as a whole, and the political context surrounding his leadership.
When examining Hitler’s leadership, it is essential to identify your own leadership model. Do you believe that morality and communication are key factors when developing a strong and effective leader? In hindsight, it is easy to denounce Hitler as a leader because of the pain and harm he afflicted on others. Heifitz writes that “leadership engages our values,” but what if those values are immoral and destructive to many parties? Hitler was a leader, mainly due to his positional power and influence on others surrounding his vision. However, I believe there is a difference between moral and immoral leaders, and when the vision is detrimental to multiple parties, the leadership is not a success.
In 1888, George Eastman, just in his mid-twenties, established Eastman Kodak Company and introduced roll film, his own invention, which later paved the way for the development of the motion picture. Kodak later introduced the 35mm film, catapulting the company to the forefront in American industry, and made photography a newly accessible hobby for all American households.
Today, George Eastman is credited for being a game changer who overcame incredible financial adversity, had a gift for organization and management, and possessed an incredible talent for creativity and innovation. His creativity captures Teresa Amable’s perspective in How to Kill Creativity, when she states that “to be creative, an idea must be appropriate – useful and actionable. It must somehow influence the way business gets done by improving a product, for instance, or by opening up a new way to approach a process”. (HBS, 1998)
By the 1960s, Kodak was a household name and the gold standard for all things photography and film related.
In the 1970’s, however, something incredible happened: Kodak invented the digital camera. Let me say that again: Kodak, inventor of the 35mm film, invented the digital camera. And because this new innovation posed a potential threat to its film sales, Kodak responded in an interesting way: they suppressed their new technology. The company that once pioneered mass-market photography began to quickly amass more than 1,000 digital-imaging patents. They essentially prioritized preserving the status quo to maintain sales of one piece of intellectual property.
In The Leader’s New Work: Building Learning Organizations, Peter Senge (SMR, 1990) suggests that while we are all born learners, there are social and organizational structures in which we are brought up and socialized into the workplace that end up shifting our "natural" learning abilities into adaptive learning "skills." The problem with this, he says, is that by focusing on performing for others, corporations end up creating the very conditions that predestine them to mediocre performance.
Today, Kodak is in decline as a company and is no longer a technology innovator. Aside from the massive loss of money, Kodak was been forced to lay off thousands of workers to stay in business. So what happened?
I believe Kodak essentially lost focus and lost sight of their founder’s vision when a new innovation came about. In response to change, they focused on what they were selling at the expense of why people were buying it. Had Kodak embraced their innovation as “designers” as Senge (SMR, 1990) terms it, their own invention of the digital camera might have been seen in a more systematic approach. This would have highlighted creative tension as opportunities, identified forces of change as areas of potential leverage. Kodak might also have avoided framing a new development as a threat or potential cause of revenue loss. Along with the role of designer, Senge states that leaders are also teachers, and stewards. These three roles require new skills – namely, the ability to build shared vision, to bring to the surface and challenge prevailing mental models, and to foster more systemic patterns of thinking. In short, leaders in learning organizations are responsible for building organizations where people are continually expanding their capabilities to shape their future. Leaders are responsible for learning. (Senge, 1990)
Kodak had the competitive advantage from the very beginning, but they failed to leverage it. A systematic perspective would have pointed to strategic dilemmas as an opportunity for further competitive advantage- and long term gains.
1. According to Kodak’s website, Eastman’s vision was "to make the camera as convenient as the pencil." How might this vision have helped to guide more recent executives in addressing technological advances? What might Senge say to this? What about Selznick?
2. What might Kodak have learned from GE in terms of developing their own leadership capacity?
3 From an organizational perspective, how might Kodak have utilized Dupree’s leadership model regarding creativity to bolster their bottom line?
During the Halloween weekend, I went to see the last piece of the seven-part horror movie, Saw. The movie portrays a series of survival puzzles often ending in death based on the decisions made by those chosen to participate. Behind the creative master plan is a man named John also known as Jigsaw. He chooses individuals who have made poor moral decisions in life, places them in intricate traps and forces them to acknowledge their sins. As I watched the ending to the movie series, I asked myself, “was Jigsaw a leader?”. He ultimately had several successors continue his plans long after he had passed; however, he created traps that gruesomely killed countless individuals. When evaluated against a moral standard, one would say that Jigsaw was completely immoral. However, he was a visionary and imparted his vision on to his followers.
In reference to Marshall Sashkin, Jigsaw is a visionary leader. He meets all three of Sashkin’s major aspects of visionary leadership. He constructed a vision, defined a philosophy and developed a program that put the philosophy into practice, and then engaged one-on-one with each chosen participant in order to create and support his own vision.
According to Heiftz, leadership involves our self-images and moral codes. A quote from Jigsaw says, “Those who don’t appreciate life, don’t deserve life. The cure for death itself is immorality. By living a life worth remembering, you become immortal”. This statement is a reflection of his moral values. His self-image and moral codes reflect Jigsaw’s decision to create these games. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and fell into a deep state of depression. As a result, he felt others should cherish life by living morally and being grateful for their lives. His self-image and his moral values are displayed in this vision.
Regardless of the values that Jigsaw represents or the product of his actions, he played a key part in the production of his followers and vision (Heiftz). His actions relate to the agent of state theory (Milgram). Although Jigsaw kidnapped individuals and placed them in these traps, the victims had the power to complete an act that would have saved their lives. Technically, removing Jigsaw from the responsibility of his actions.
Although, Jigsaw is a negative example of leadership, by some definitions he is considered a leader. Jigsaw had no legitimate power; however, he used coercive power in an attempt to make his vision a reality (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy). In spite of this, Hefitz argues that a character like Jigsaw, who can be compared to Hitler, wielded power but did not lead. He played to people’s basest needs and fears (Heiftz). Consequently, some felt that after surviving a Jigsaw trap, their life changed for the better. Others who survived or families who lost loved ones as a result of his traps, would feel differently.
How do we incorporate morality into leadership? Are good morals a leadership requirement? If so, who defines the standard of good morality? Although this is an extreme case, is Jigsaw considered a leader? Do your personal morals affect how you view ‘good’ morale? Does the use of coercive power affect the definition of leadership?
Thursday, November 4, 2010
“While I’m not foolish enough to predict that we will never have a flop, I don’t think our success is largely luck. Rather, I believe our adherence to a set of principles and practices for managing creative talent and risk is responsible.”
With the founding of Pixar in 1986, Mr. Catmull aimed to better understand what worked and what didn’t work in the feature-film industry in order to develop a vision for what a successful animation studio should look like. From looking at the leadership styles at other studios, his conclusion was that most overlooked the need for true creative freedom during the production design process. His approach for the newly formed Pixar studios was to promote a ‘creative culture’ throughout all levels of the organization. The creative culture, according to Catmull, “…empowers the production designers…by giving them control over every stage of idea development,” (Catmull, 2008).
Along with this greater flexibility came additional responsibilities for employees. Pixar’s creative culture established an expectation that people throughout the organization would support one another in producing work of the highest quality. Rather than relying heavily on a ridged hierarchy, Catmull believes that feedback from peers is a more meaningful way to learn from mistakes and foster innovation. This position seems to align with Amabile’s (1998) discussion of freedom and creativity. In particular, Amabile states that, “Autonomy around process fosters creativity because giving people freedom in how they approach their work heightens their intrinsic motivation and sense of ownership.”
It’s easy to see that Pixar designers are committed to the results of their work, and most would agree that they don’t settle for mediocrity. According to Catmull, the creative culture has been key to Pixar’s tremendous performance during the last 15 years. Beginning with the release of “Toy Story” in 1995, 11 full-length animated films have gone on to gross a total of more than $2.8 billion dollars in the U.S. (Box Office Data 2010).
In addition to his focus on creativity, it seems that Edwin Catmull’s technical knowledge and personal traits allow him to be a particularly effective leader in the film industry. In reviewing Pixar’s remarkable success in the past 24 years, I noticed a recurrent theme of strong determination and on the part of Catmull, which, because of his collaborative style, permeates throughout the organization to all employees. His early vision was to be able to someday create and market the world’s first full-length computer animated feature film. However, at the time of Pixar’s founding, this vision seemed unlikely, based in part on the limitations of computer graphics software available at the time. Mr. Catmull decided to confront a significant obstacle to future innovation by leading the effort at Pixar to develop texture mapping software which allows for high-resolution, realistic graphics. The RenderMan software program was successfully completed in 1989, and is now an industry standard for computer animation.
When Stogdill (1948) outlines some of the personal factors commonly associated with leadership, he describes ambition as working to provide energy to the organization. Specifically, Stogdill states that, “Ambition impels leaders to set hard, challenging goals for themselves and their organizations.” It seems that Mr. Catmull’s display of ambition early in Pixar’s history has laid the groundwork for continually setting the bar high with respect to quality. His employees know that he expects Pixar to generate solutions to difficult production challenges, in the same way that he tackled the software development issue in the late 1980’s. This reminds me of the concept of leading by doing.
As well as his understanding of internal organizational dynamics, I also get the sense that Mr. Catmull is keenly aware of the need to respond to the ever changing external environment to remain viable. When considering the inclusion of social themes, such as diversity, and environmental awareness in recent film releases, it seems that Mumford, et al., (2000) would suggest that Pixar is balancing stability with, “need for change to cope with shifts in the environment, technology, and available resources.” The studio knows what works for their traditional formula, but at the same time understands the need to remain current by addressing issues that are relevant to consumers.
Over the years, Pixar’s corporate objective has evolved to be what it is today – “to combine proprietary technology and world-class creative talent to develop computer animated feature films with memorable characters and heartwarming stories that appeal to audiences of all ages.” -pixar.com/companyinfo. As Geneen (1998) explains, “The person who leads a company should realize that his people are really not working for him; they are working with him for themselves…they have their own need for self-fulfillment.” As a leader who supports creativity throughout the organization, Edwin Catmull encourages a sense of ownership and self-fulfillment by giving employees the freedom to generate unique solutions to common challenges. He has found a leadership formula that works well for the film industry, and it’s likely that this allows Pixar to continuously produce an excellent product, while attracting top industry talent.
Box Office History for Disney-Pixar Movies http://www.the-
Catmull, E., “How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity” Harvard Business Review Sep. 2008.
Pixar Corporate Information – About Us.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of people attended Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, D.C. Though Jon Stewart kept the reason behind this rally purposefully vague, it was well known that it was a response to Glenn Beck’s earlier rally. Jon Stewart targeted a certain group of people for this rally, and as is described on its website, the rally was designed for “people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard…Are you one of those people? Excellent. Then we’d like you to join us in Washington, DC on October 30 — a date of no significance whatsoever — at the Daily Show’s ‘Rally to Restore Sanity.’'
This could be described as a visionary event, but what exactly was the vision? Those who attended the rally might think of Jon Stewart as a visionary leader, but what vision was he trying to convey. According to Sashkin, there are three main aspects to visionary leadership. The first two include constructing a vision for an organization and its culture, and developing programs and practices that put this vision into practice. “The third aspect centers on the leader’s own practices, the specific actions in which leaders engage on a one-to-one basis in order to create and support their visions.” (403) Jon Stewart clearly had a vision for his rally, but how well did he communicate it. He engaged with his viewers and followers to support his vision, but it is not clear that this event conveyed visionary leadership. At the end of his rally, Stewart closed with some poignant thoughts. He said, “The country's 24-hour, political pundit, perpetual, panic conflict-inator did not cause our problems. But its existence makes solving them that much harder. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.” He connected with his audience by concluding, “Sanity has always been in the eye of the beholder. And to see you here today, and the kind of people that you are, has restored mine”
If Jon Stewart did not display visionary leadership, was he just using referent power? Referent power occurs when a leader does not have expertise and he therefore builds strong ties with subordinates. “Referent power refers to the potential influence once has due to the strength of the relationship between the leader and the followers.” (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, 341) This rally clearly attracted followers, and they felt a strong connection to Stewart and his words. His referent power could also be a consequence of his charisma. At his rally, Stewart portrayed Choi’s three core components of charismatic leadership: envisioning, empathy, and empowering. (25) Stewart’s connection to his audience allows him to be a leader to them through these features.
It is important to understand the roles of commentators like Jon Stewart because of the impact they have on society. If people look to them for news, guidance, or even just laughs, it puts them in a position of power. Whatever one personally thinks of Jon Stewart and his show, it is important to understand what drew more than 200,000 people to see what he had to say.
So what do you think? Do you think Jon Stewart has power, and if yes, does that translate to leadership? Is Jon Stewart visionary, or just really charismatic? Do you trust him more than politicians? Do you think his work matters?
This past Monday, the San Francisco Giants won their first World Series since 1954. The 2010 Giants were able to accomplish something that Barry Bonds and Willy McCovey failed to do during their illustrious Hall of Fame careers; win a World Series Title. Even though their roster lacked the superstar talent displayed by playoff teams such as the Yankees and Phillies, the Giants were able to overcome their perceived lack of talent and become baseball’s metaphorical Cinderella. Not to pass judgment on the careers of several of the Giants players during their miraculous post season run, but for the most part, the roster was comprised of spare parts. In fact, manager Bruce Boochy even referred to his roster as a group of “misfits and castoffs”. This statement by Boochy became a rallying cry for the team during their postseason run. Perhaps, this illustrates Boochy’s talents as a communicator since he was able to motivate his team thru quotes such as this. We learned from Hackman and Johnson that “leadership is human communication which modifies the attitudes and behaviors of others in order to meet group goals and needs” (p. 428). Thus, Boochy can be seen as a skilled communicator and leader by establishing a rallying cry for his team and knowing what to say at the right time.
Starting center fielder Andres Torres spent the majority of his career floating around in the minor leagues. World Series MVP, Edgar Renteria, who played the entire World Series with a torn bicep tendon, and only played in one game in the last two weeks of the regular season, has bounced between five teams since 2004. Starting left fielder, Pat Burrell was added to the team in June after he was released from the Tampa Bay Rays. Aubrey Huff was a free agent addition this past winter. Infielder, Mike Fontenot was acquired from the Cubs in an August trade. Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez, who were both contributors in the Giants bullpen, were acquired at the trade deadline. Cody Ross was a waiver-wire addition in August after being placed on waivers by the Marlins. He went on to star in the post-season with several majestic home runs in their division series win over the Braves and championship series win over the Phillies. Rookie left-hander, Madison Baumgardner, who pitched eight scoreless innings in Game 4 of the World Series, only recently turned 21 years old and starting catcher Buster Posey was playing shortstop at Florida State in 2007.
Taking into consideration this hodgepodge of characters, I think it is important to exam how this group was able to overcome all obstacles and capture the World Series. What leadership lessons can be learned from the 2010 Giants? My answer is several.
First, and foremost, the team leadership structure has been in place for years. Starting with General Manager, Brian Sabean, who just finished his 14th season at the helm of the club. I feel that the stability he brings to the club is immeasurable. Everyone in the organization knows and understands the high standards in which he sets, and this allows for things to move very smoothly. Thus, I believe, that Sabean’s experience served as a calming force within the organization. Players and coaches alike respected Sabean not only for his experience, but he had proven his worth as a talent evaluator in having drafted and developed the Giants four playoff starting pitchers: Tim Linceum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Baumgardner. Hence, because of his reputation as a talent evaluator, members of the organization trusted Sabean every time he brought in a new player into the fold. Furthermore, his roster moves over the course of the season demonstrated the ability of team leadership to “respond quickly…rapidly develop new products…tapping the tacit and often highly subjective insights, intuitions, and hunches of individual employees and making those insights available for testing and use by the company as a whole” (Nonaka, 2000). Sabean and other members of the team’s leadership displayed their willingness to roll the dice and take chances on players that others didn’t want.
Time and time again, the Giants leadership acted as the princess who would kiss the frog and transform it into the prince. Simply put, no one else wanted several of these players, yet the Giants had the insight that this group could win games. Sabean’s visionary leadership shows in his idea to build a team around an offense of veteran players with playoff experience, and a group of young pitchers drafted and developed by the team. Team sources who I have spoken to in the past year, have mentioned to me that this was Sabean’s plan for returning to the Giants to the World Series that he came up with a few years ago. Thus, he exemplifies Sashkin’s visionary leadership by expressing a vision, explaining a vision, and extending a vision.
The Giants assembled a diverse group of employees that worked together in striving for a common goal. “Their personalities work well together. They respect the game, they respect each other. It’s like the United Nations in there, a clash of cultures. But they know what to do when the game starts” (Sabean, 2010). In summary, when examining the 2010 Giants, we see how the communication and visionary skills of team leadership, good chemistry and teamwork, a unified desire to reach goals, and a diverse yet talented group of employees were the winning recipe that help lead a group of misfits to the World Series.
Abraham, P. (2010). Gm Sabean Proves to be an Adroit Architect. Boston Globe, Retrieved from http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/articles/2010/10/24/gm_sabean_proves_to_be_an_adroit_architect/