Monday, September 8, 2008


If you haven't yet, everyone should read Woody's post below. It is fantastic.

In a related vein, this morning's Today show included an interview with Bob Woodward on his newest book "The War Within" (video link here). I kind of tuned in halfway through, right as Matt Lauer brought up an example from the book of a time when military advisors told President Bush that the troop surge in Iraq would require deployment of two brigades of troops. The President, in turn, decided to deploy five brigades instead. Matt Lauer said that he had some qualms about this particular decision, but he went on to say "But that's leadership, isn't it?" I immediately thought of last week's readings and wondered- is it? Without getting into any sort of partisan or even war-related discussion- how does the act of substituting your own judgement for that of others, be they "followers" or other leaders, fit into the process of leadership? I would think that it must be necessary sometimes, particularly if your role is to be the guardian of the goals and values of an organization. But is that leadership, or just something that a leader sometimes does? Are those two interchangeable? And how much do the ideas of human limitation and delegation (which Woody mentioned were missing from last week's readings) come into play?

Substituting your own judgement would, no doubt, be the very definition of leadership if we all subscribed to the Great Man theory, but when looking at leadership as a process, how does that sort of decision fit in?

Just something I'm thinking about today...


  1. Valerie,

    I wholeheartedly agree with your questions and misgivings. And thanks for pluggin' my blog post. My big question, is "how do ideas of blind obedience to authority such as the ones raised by Stanley Milgram, speak to followers who have absolutely no problem with a leader who acts outside of their collective will and/or advice?" As in Milgram's experiment, are we as follower's so socialized toward obedience, that we overlook leadership that does not reflect our interests, such as the example of Stalin or Mao? Thanks again for posting!

  2. You mentioned Stanley and Mao, which inevitably remind me of George Orwell's 1984, a pungent political fable.

    "Collective interest" or "the common good" is yet another hard-to-define concept, and is often open to misinterpretation. As i see it,sometimes the mechanism at work is more subtle and complicated than inspiring "blind obedience" in followers.As in 1984, leaders can influence followers' vision of the common good through various means. Followers don't choose to overlook leadership that doesn't reflect their interests.It's difficult for one to act against his own will, isn't it? But things are different when the leader's will become internalized as that of his/her followers'.

  3. I think that whether "substituting your own judgement for that of others" constitutes leadership depends on how and why this substitution is made. Leadership, according to the "Strengths Based Management" approach (which Woody explained in his previous post), "discerns" and "capitalizes" on organizational and individual strengths. Thus, a leader should make it a priority to listen to and be open to judgements of others (whether followers or leaders) who have certain expertise or experience relevant to the critical issue at hand, and make judgements which add, elaborate, or critique upon the judgements of others. In instances in which other persons have have additional relevant expertise or experience, or have perhaps approached the critical issue from a different perspective (that that of "the leader"), the leader may choose to give additional weight to the judgement of others before subsituting her own judgement.


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