Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A few more remarks to make on today's class.

"Organization emerges from nowhere but communication." I like this notion,and the idea of "emerge" in particular.We've been talking about the formation of the organizational vision: Where does it come from? Does the leader conceive it on his/her own or is it resulted from the interaction between the leader and the followers? I think one thing we need to keep in mind when addressing this kind of questions is the numerous types of organizations and leadship there can be.Leadership is so inclusive a concept that sometimes it's easy to overlook its nuances in meaning when used in different contexts.Again, definition matters.

Literally, every organzation presents a unique picture. The way vision is formed varies accordingly as variables such as organizational purpose and members'expectation of organizational effectiveness change.To have a clearer sense of the nature of the organization under discussion (which serves as the basis of further analysis) ,it might be a good idea to begin with questions like "why do people join this organization in the first place?" As some of you have pointed out in class, sometimes people choose to join a group and follow a certain leader because they share his/her professed vision. More often this happens to informal organizations and grass-root leaders.

".Superstar CEO"

Upon reflection of the latest articles for class discussing charismatic leadership, I have noticed a rather detrimental pattern that my undergraduate alma mater, Fisk University, exudes whenever a new person is placed into a position of power. For example, the current President of Fisk University, Hazel O’Leary came into office in 2004. There was much discussion about what she could bring to the university because of her background, especially her position as Secretary of Energy during William Clinton’s presidency. Fisk University, being in a constant state of financial crisis, needed a leader to bring Fisk out of the financial turmoil and into some form of stability. Looking back, President O’Leary was viewed as a "superstar CEO" by the university. Everyone hoped she would be the savior and save the university.

With the "Superstar CEO" mentality mentioned in the article by Rakesh Khurana, all responsibility is surrendered to the person in charge, including the blame if need be. Depending on the outcome of the organization depicts whether the "Superstar CEO" will be seen as a hero, one who conquered all, or as a villain, a mere scapegoat (Khurana, 2002). This ideology coincided with Stanley Milgram’s article on obedience in reference to the legitimate authority. Once the followers view the authority figure as "legitimate" then individual responsibility is no longer considered necessary. Followers will then attribute their actions to the authority figure; they were simply following instruction (Milgram, 1974). Because everything is construed as at the mercy of the authority figure, the follower may view his or herself as a mere vessel to execute the leader’s vision and/or work.

Unfortunately, Khurana also included many examples of how this perception is skewed because oftentimes placing the larger than life authority head on a pedestal only leaves ample space below to tumble down (Khurana, 2002). After four years serving as president, Fisk University is still in the same state, if not worse, than when President O’Leary came into office. The president of Fisk seems to be trying to hoist the entire university on her shoulders. She cannot possibly save the university by herself, right? Is it even fair to ask her to assume that role by herself? Why would people sacrifice their own choice (dare I say obligation) to contribute to accomplishing goals that affect everyone?

In Clayborn Carson’s discussion about Martin Luther King Jr., he made a valid point that while many people idolize King, he did not wage the war on civil rights by himself. There were many unspoken leaders and contributors to the movement that made their decisions on their own; not because of King (Carson, 1987). This demonstrates that while there may be someone serving as a "face" for an organization or movement, that it is not solely their actions that makes a difference, but a collective effort. Instead of sitting back and waiting for someone to come save us, why not take action to improve what we can for ourselves? That is the message I would transmit to Fisk University, to people thinking their vote does not count, or anyone who feels that they cannot make a difference. A step in the right direction is better than no step at all because it still symbolizes a conscious decision to change. `