Wednesday, October 29, 2008
In Does Temperament Matter? (Time, Oct 27, p40), a well-written and easy reading piece of work, Nancy Gibbs addresses both issues with crispy wits. Besides analyzing the distinctive ways Obama and McCain react to the ongoing financial crisis, she tries to measure the weight temperament can have on presidential leadership in a historical perspective.
In short, I find this article to be a conversational account of traits theories-also a hybrid one.
Under the subtitle of What Qualities Matter, Gibbs discusses a number of traits which are conducive to successful leadership. Here I’ll just comment on some of her arguments.
1. Intelligence vs Willingness to Hear Different Voices
Only the brightest ones among us can be capable leaders? Is that true? “It’s good to be smart, but that’s no guarantee of success; Woodrow Wilson, the only President with a Ph.D., never won over a majority of voters. More important is the confidence that lets you welcome smart people around you – and hope they disagree.” A good leader should make his/herself open to different opinions. True willingness to hear various and even conflicting voices is different from surface tolerance. Think of this: after making a proposal, a leader asks his people for their opinion. When they speak up, he/she just pretends to be listening. Then he/she ends up with his/her pre-determined plan and calls it the fruit of group discussion. This is not a rare case. It’s frustrating for followers to find out that the leader is not really interested in what they are saying. Don’t try to fool them. They can always tell. So when you listen, listen completely. The ability to accommodate conflicting ideas lies in one’s self-confidence and a larger concern with corporate goal beyond self-interests. Gibbs uses Lincoln’s story as a showcase. When people asked Lincoln why he stocked his Cabinet with former adversaries, Lincoln said, “Look, these are the strongest and most able men in the country. The country’s in peril. I need them by my side.”
2. Vitality & Resilience
“Perhaps even more important than intelligence is vitality: Tiger beats Eeyore any day.” Before set out envisioning and mobilizing followers, a leader needs to be self-motivated. He needs the energy to take actions and the resources to put ideas into practice. “Resilience helps too; every President will get thrown back against a wall and need to come back stronger. Just ask Bill Clinton. So do steadfastness, persistence, conviction.” So far Gibbs has given us a pretty good list of essential traits. If she stops at this point, it’s fine. However, she goes on saying that, “But as soon as you make the list, it mocks you, for history is a dance of luck and intent, and sometimes they trip each other.” This actually takes her argument to the next level as it touches upon situational theories.
3. Situational Theories
Again, Gibbs illustrates her point by giving examples. Wilson was strong enough to win a war but too stubborn to save the peace, while Hoover never understood that politics was more art than engineering. A question naturally arises from the above discussion is: Is leadership transferrable? Does a successful leader in one context automatically excel in another? Is their performance predictable? “Not only can’t you know what a President will face, but his reflexes in one crisis may not be typical of how he responds to another,” Gibbs observes. This echoes the situational theories we learned in class.
Hackman and Johnson define leadership specifically as "communication which modifies the attitudes and behaviors of others in order to meet group goals and needs" (Hackman and Johnson, 1991). In this conception it is communication that defines leadership. Leadership effectiveness depends on whether one can process cues from the environment, listen well to others, and establish satisfying group relationships. Leaders are those who can take this input from others and convert it into vision for the future. Obama matches these traits. As a person of mixed race in a predominantly white environment he is adept at understanding his situation and molding the impression he makes. He has established a reputation for inviting divergent views to the table in order to hear perspectives other than his own. He has inspired the most productive movement of professional and volunteer organizers, people who are satisfied just to be a part of the process. Most of all he has cast a large vision for the future in simple words like unity, hope and change.
Marshall Sashkin captures this idea in his conception of visionary leadership. A visionary leader is someone who can construct a vision and create an ideal image of the organization and its culture (Sashkin, 1989). This leader then must be able to define the organizational philosophy and put it into practice with programs and policies. An effective leader, according to Sashkin, is one who can express an organizational aim, through written and face to face relations, and extend this vision in a variety of circumstances. Obama is a quintessential visionary leader.
Communication and vision casting are not trivial traits. Look at the history of the United States and you will find that great presidents are known for exactly these skills. Lincoln stood up to the seceding South in the vision of the Emancipation Proclamation and the eloquence of his second inaugural address. Franklin D. Roosevelt calmed the fears of the nation in the Depression through fireside radio chats and called the country to defeat fascism in World War II through rousing rhetoric. John F. Kennedy was in office such a short time, but is remembered on behalf of his image management, his optimism, and his vision for the future. And Ronald Reagan, an actor, was hailed for his oratorical skills as he communicated his way through the end of the Cold War. That is what good presidents do. They listen to the public, and then speak for America. They invite confidence and participation. They use words and style to advocate on behalf of policy, both here and abroad. They embody the image of the nation. These are not small traits, rather they are quite charismatic.
To further substantiate this view of leaderhip as communication, we need only look at its antithesis: George Bush. I do not bring his presidency up as a straw man. Any honest citizen must acknowledge that President Bush has enacted some good programs, like the emergency fund for AIDS in Africa. But by all accounts he has not been a good communicator and this has cost the country in her own self confidence and reputation around the world. In the wake of this administration of little listening, miscast vision and poorly communicated plans, the nation needs a visionary leader, someone who can rebrand America both internally and externally, someone who can make people believe again. If eloquence is essential in that endeavor, then Obama should not be faulted for his fluency.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Here are some links showing Toyota's most recent innovations which I thought that you might enjoy:
I was actually lucky enough to see this 'band' perform when I visited the corporation!
As energy-efficiency becomes an important part of the economic and political dialogue in our country, I wonder what policies could be made on the government and local levels which could encourage corporations to incorporate knowledge-creating management styles within their organizations to pursue energy sustainability. I wonder if it would be more effective for our government or a company to pursue the creative innovations which would lead to a more sustainable future. The culture of a company is important in encouraging creative innovation. Does the type (state or corporation) also matter?
An article about a speech Obama made at Northwestern's graduation regarding his leadership lessons (this article is done in 3 parts, so you have to click on the link on the left if you want to read all 3 parts)
Obama's leadership lessons outlined:
1. The world doesn't just revolve around you. Have empathy
2. Challenge yourself. Take some risks in your life.
3. Perseverance. Making a mark on this world is hard. It takes patience and perseverance, and failure is part of the job description. but you have to keep on plugging at it.
A comparison of Obama and McCain's leadership styles: http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-assess20-2008sep20,0,7459654.story
An analysis of the candidates' personality types according to Myers Brigg's personality test (there is also an analysis according to personality of Gore and Bush from 2004 linked on the same page, which i found interesting): http://www.slate.com/id/2184696/pagenum/all/
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
McGregor describes the quintessential leader as a “fully integrated human being”. Greenleaf (1977) describes servant leaders as “people who put other people’s need, aspiration, and interests above their own”. Yet does this paradigm of self-sacrifice characterize the fullness of the “fully integrated human being” model which McGregor prescribes?
Native Americans view leadership as a tribal phenomenon, in which the leader is the servant and guide of the community. Organizations of all types can be viewed in this light. The Native American role of “Shaman” fits the prophetic image of “co-creator” that Greenleaf describes. In the seminal and groundbreaking work, “Black Elk Speaks” John Neihardt recounts the story of one of the most powerful Shaman in human history, Black Elk. Black Elk was called upon by the Great Grandfather Spirit to use his gifts of miraculous faith healing and prophetic witness to lead his people through the horrific trials of the Battle of the Little Big Horn and the Wounded Knee Massacre. Black Elk’s story is neither singular nor categorically unique, as there was another Shaman, 2000 years prior who God anointed to shake the very foundations of Creation itself and usher in an era of love, power, soundness of mind, faith, hope, and solidarity for the human family.
Throughout human existence, not just famous Shaman like Mother Theresa, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King but unsung and untold warriors of faith from every religious and spiritual tradition have fought against the forces of darkness for the benefit of Mother Earth and human kind. Even in Block’s notion of the stewardship contract, we see the image of individuals who rule themselves and thus are capable of leading through following and following through leading.
Bearing all of this in mind, I posit the following as steps that in my view, all individuals must experience to become fully integrated as “leaders” or “Shaman” in the Native American conception. This is only my view, and is not to be seen as normative in any way shape or form. This is also more of a theological than scholarly viewpoint and should be viewed as such:
Step 1 entails an awareness of God and the other. The infantile state of woman or man is a state of love accentuated by pronounced self-centeredness and self preservation. Though no one would argue that infants are not full of love, the love of the infant is ultimately self-absorbed as they are relatively unaware of the suffering, beauty, and courageous integrity of the beings around them. So step 1 of the Shamanic Journey entails obtaining an awareness that one is not alone in the world and that both a Supreme Being of love and other beings of light exist.
Step 2 entails a commitment to serve this Supreme Being of love and other human and non-human beings of light. Pronounced feelings of joy and transcendence often surround submission to step 2 of the process as one relinquishes the strangling decadence of self-sufficiency and commits oneself to a higher purpose of service.
Step 3 however is a tortuous and grueling sojourn which few Shaman can fully master in this human life. Step 3 entails learning to love oneself in the midst of serving God and others. This step requires almost super-human levels of self-control, self-discipline, and diligence as one must learn to balance the seemingly counterbalancing imperatives to love and Serve God and others, yet still love, serve, protect, and defend oneself. However, as the diligent Shaman learns to master this step she or he begins to operate in a kind of open hand Karma Yoga in which he or she accepts the things that he or she cannot change while raging in courage to usher forth God’s light into the human experience. Many Shaman commit suicide or turn to self-destructive behaviors due to the unmitigated pain and suffering of this stage. However, given the infinite grace and mercy of the Divine, ALL SHAMAN do make it through this rite of passage, though many must finish the process in the afterlife.
Once the committed Shaman masters step 3, she or he, must then learn to literally Co-Create with God. This is often through communication and imagination, akin to the kind of envisioning and empowerment to which Choi (2004) alludes. As the prologue of John intimates those who receive God, are given power to become sons and daughters of God, or in other words, little Gods. Consequently, step 4 is a passage toward paradoxical dependence on and independence from God in which the Shaman is literally able to hold depending on God and creating the elements of God such as Joy, happiness, and holiness in tension. This stage can be even more challenging and tortuous than stage 3 because it is often characterized by pronounced rejection and isolation. For how can one learn to create love, when one is surrounded by love? Rather one must learn to create love in the midst of its absence or at least its opposite.
Step 5 is the moment of full human integration that characterizes the master Shaman. This is the moment in which the Shaman experiences the sublime reality of oneness with God and all living creatures. Jesus, as the greatest and most profound of all Shaman experienced this moment in his resurrection at which point he literally became the center or omega point of all creation.
As I converse with Shamanic individuals of all religious and spiritual traditions, I am touched by a kind of Cryos moment in which the “icy cold” winds of the Holy Spirit, the great spirit have created a existential crossroads for humanity. America’s flirting with electing an African-American president and the much needed wake up call of our societies current economic crisis, alert one to the reality that God is speaking to God’s Shaman. In reality, all human beings are called and predestined to become Shaman. So the question is not one of destiny but rather chronology, for some have the gift of being the “first born of many”. It is to these “first born” to whom God is speaking. God is calling the first born of all Shaman, to a kind of accelerated transformation in which the Shamanic process is no longer linear but rather cyclical and synergistically reinforcing. In other words, Shaman are finding themselves in steps 3 and 4 simultaneously or finding themselves regressing from step 3 to step 1, etc. etc. Similarly, dark forces are capitalizing on this flux and are attempting to totally obliterate both the nascent and seasoned Shaman alike.
So what are we to do? What is God telling us?
As discussed in class, the critical error of Shaman throughout history has been delusion of the Atlas Complex. The Atlas Complex stems from Shaman believing that they are alone in their journey, mandates, call, and obligations. This creates the delusion that they must single handedly bear the weight of the world on their shoulders. In reality only one Shaman, Jesus, was asked to this, and because he did it, it is no longer necessary for the rest of us. What God is telling the Shaman of this historic era, is “You cannot do it by yourself!!” “YOU MUST UNITE TO COMPLETE THE PROCESS”. The secret that God is now revealing is that no Shaman can complete steps 1 through 5 through their relationship with God alone, but it is only through solidarity with others of similar calling that they can reach full maturity. Consequently, it is time for us. Those who have been called to the higher calling of God’s Kingdom and the Justice, Mercy, and Faith that it entails to unite. We have not been called to unite against anything in particular, but rather for each other!! When we unite for one another then we will win this war not against flesh and blood but against the spirits of selfishness, ignorance, hatred, and oppression that afflict us all.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
I didn't really know how to respond to that. If I said "Yes, of course," that would imply that there was a chance he might have said no, which in turn would have implied an unequal and controlling relationship between us. "No" would have obviously been incorrect, as I am currently enrolled in grad school, and the whole truth- which is much more complicated- would have been WAY too much information for someone I had just met, like, fifteen minutes before. In fact, it may be too much information for all of you now, but I promise that this is going somewhere relevant.
The fact of the matter is that I did discuss with my fiance my decision to go to graduate school, he did have input, and had he said "No, I really don't think this is a good idea," I probably would not be here today. Not because he is the man and he knows best, or because he is financing this whole thing (oh, don't I wish- thanks US Bank!) or whatever, but because we have a mutually respectful relationship, and I know that he would not ask me not to do something that I really thought was best without a good reason. This goes both ways, and we are not unique in this regard. In fact, I don't think it is going out on a limb to say that this is a pretty common element in a lot of successful relationships. We make plans and decisions for ourselves, all the while with an eye to the best interest of both the other person and our very small and right now VERY not-for-profit organization.
This consideration, I believe is the basis for successful social responsibility amongst corporations. You can see examples of it all through this week's readings. Sometimes, as Jessica pointed out in her post, social responsibility benefits an organization. Sometimes, it may be a neutral act. As an example, the Cadbury article talks about his father's decision not to make a profit off of a war he didn't believe in. He was able to do what he thought was right to support the morale of the troops, and his company did not suffer- he still sold the candy at cost- but he did not benefit.
The question, then, becomes whether or not society reciprocates with the best interest of the company in mind. This does not seem to be the case until one considers Friedman's point that companies are comprised of individuals, who benefit from a healthy society, and in turn are presumably better able to perform at their jobs.
It is simpler, of course, to consider the needs and best interests of two people, as in a marriage. It becomes more complicated, however, when you factor in a whole organization. And the "Parable of the Sadhu" raises some significant ethical questions. But, as McCoy points out, "not every ethical dilemma has a right solution." The important thing, he says, is to develop a process to deal with these dilemmas as they arise- thus completing the circle back to the beginning of the course when we discussed leadership as a process.
I would guess that probably, developing processes to deal with issues as they arise is probably a pretty useful skill to have in a marriage as well. I will know after this Saturday. Wish me luck.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I am not thinking about the movie but about dance, especially salsa. I remember my dance teachers say that when you dance salsa in couples, the guy takes the lead and the girl has to follow him. And this is a common point among different salsa dance styles. And this idea somehow was not clear for me until I heard a Cuban teacher said that the guy would take the lead in order to make the girl shine bright. Furthermore, he is supposed to smile at her and make her feel great so that you will naturally respond to this “suggestion” smiling and will look charming. It sounds interesting for me: a good metaphor that illustrates how I understand leadership, a relationship of mutual influence that implies that he is not the leader and she is not a follower where dancers are part of an entity that achieves a specific goal, enjoying dancing salsa for instance. The fascinating thing is that when you see or dance salsa, you cannot be aware of this leadership; you are just enjoying the dance.
Well, there are pairs that form a circle and dance and, when a caller/leader of the group makes a sign, they exchange partners without loosing the rhythm. And, any naïve spectator will not realize how they do it, you just know they are doing such a wonderful performance, with a precise coordination where the ability of individuals and the group is mise-en-scène! What is going on there? I believe that besides time to practice, to have such a performance, everybody knows his/her role (dance steps and times) as well as the caller assumes is one of them but also has a leader role and dancers trust their leader and the actions he/she will guide.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Although I recognize that Milton Friedman does have some valid points about the problem with compromising profits in the name of an “artificial responsibility” [considering that “only people can have responsibilities”] I believe that the two are not mutually exclusive. Aside from the Ben and Jerry’s example, couldn’t we imagine a situation in which it would be in the organization’s best interest (i.e. increased profits) to act socially responsible? Independent from the (still) mysterious Body Shop woman’s promise to donating 5% of her profits to charity, what if we followed Don Quijote’s example of an imaginative leader (aha! a good example of where this principle could be beneficial if controlled!) and found a way for ‘social responsibility’ to benefit both parties without risking profit.
To kick start this idea, lets imagine a small business, “X”, is interested in introducing a new candy bar. Their target consumer is between ages 15-18. Business “X”, before releasing their candy bar, wants to ensure that their target demographic understands what the candy bar is and why it is better than other candy bars on the market + wants to get them to by this candy bar = recognizes the necessity to conduct market research. In the past, organizations might employ an external marketing organization to conduct a research study, compile a focus group, compare their competitor’s strategies etc. Although these have been successful for many businesses, one limitation has been revealing avenues to directly communicate to the consumer. So here is where this idea of “social responsibility” could be integrated into business “X’s existing processes…who better to understand what the audience wants and needs than someone in that audience? Why couldn’t business “X” depend on a high school aged “Ivan intern” (at no cost to them) to disseminate information about the candy bar, educate business “X’s” marketing team about their audience, relate to the customer, and more adequately explain the value proposition of the product? Wouldn’t this give business “X” the marketing scope and audience understanding they need to be successful while also expanding their opportunities to directly reach their target audience? Doesn’t this also allow “Ivan intern” to put a highly valued career experience on his resume? And isn’t this benefit heightened if Ivan aspired to go to college but is from an under resourced school where extracurricular opportunities are limited? I recognize that there are limitations to this example, i.e. Ivan’s ability to perform these tasks effectively and the time taken to train him but couldn’t we really get somewhere with this?
Another example. What is stopping Fido’s (coffee shop on 21st; I highly recommend it) from hosting an event organized by Children’s Hospital volunteers to make slippers for patients? The Children’s Hospital uses Fido’s space (brings all of the necessary supplies) and benefits from Fido’s existing popularity and name recognition. Meanwhile Fido’s increases their profit (immediately because of the increased traffic flow through their store on the day of the event and after in establishing a new clientele base/support).
Another example. The Vanderbilt women’s lacrosse team decides to “adopt” an 11 year old girl with brain cancer. This adoption includes having Makenzie appear at games and sit on the sideline with the team, giving extra Vanderbilt gear to her and her younger brother, inviting her family to the end of the year celebration banquet etc. Makenzie benefits from the love and support the team offers her and her family (without doing anything extra but including her in what is already expected of the team) and the team finds some extra energy and motivation to appreciate the game, their teammates, and the health of their bodies… and, if they are lucky, like Northwestern (who has won four national championships since the year they “adopted” Jacklyn) they might find their love and care for another translates into success.
Regardless of the type of business or team, organizations have a collective power, (money, resources, support) to do what people cannot on their own. If, in agreement with the contingency theory, an organization is equally affected by the external environment as the situations, transactions, processes etc. that occur within, I argue that it is exceedingly important to cultivate abundant and healthy and relationships with external parties (i.e. the community). Rather than expect public service or “social responsibility” to consume profit, let’s explore ways that we can accomplish both: allow “corporate social responsibility” to penetrate existing processes and consequently if not increase profit, at least maintain what would be gained without integrating socially responsible ideals.
As long as we can find ways for organizations to minimize the “transaction cost” of integrating such “socially responsible” events into corporate processes I am confident that we could cultivate a new corporate culture- one that enhances the communities of which these businesses are a part without compromising profits. And who better to start these movements than the leaders of these organizations? I am not suggesting that this “vision” for transforming corporate America need be created and maintained solely by the leaders: that it is limited by “providing a vision and influencing others to realize it through non-coercive means” (Heifitz, 1994). Rather if our current short-comings in not taking advantage of businesses’ collective power is a problem (and I argue that it is), the solution should not come from leaders who exclusively influence “the community to follow their vision” but from those that “influence the community to face its problems” (Heifitz, 1994). This style of leadership would look more like Sashkin’s model (oh the “e”s = express, explain, extend, expand) with a modified “first step” (Sashkin, 1989). Without going into all of them, I suggest a “modified step” that (rather than encouraging others to be committed to “the leader’s vision”) requires a leader to “focus others’ attention on key issues [the lack of corporate social responsibility]- helping people grasp, understand and become committed” to the cause: thus depending on “effective followers” to collaboratively create a vision (Sashkin, 1989; Kelly, 1998). With this adjustment, I think Sashkin’s outline of effective leadership would be very valuable in this situation especially in that it allows followers to be “empowered” to affect real change. Change that does not separate from the bottom line, but embraces a socially responsible means to enhance it.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Friday, October 3, 2008
The authoritative style of leadership is more dictatorial than its actual definition because it is derived from the word "authority." Though "authoritative" denotes a negative style of leading, it is a psychological term that describes different parenting styles. An authoritative parenting style should be discerned from the "authoritarian." I do not know whether the leadership term is derived from the psychological meaning, but it was the first thing I thought of when hearing of this in Goleman's work.
Authoritarian parents are highly demanding and directive, but not responsive. "They are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation" (Baumrind, 1991, p. 62). These parents provide well-ordered and structured environments with clearly stated rules. Authoritarian parents can be divided into two types: nonauthoritarian-directive, who are directive, but not intrusive or autocratic in their use of power, and authoritarian-directive, who are highly intrusive.
Authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive. "They monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative" (Baumrind, 1991, p. 62).