Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Leadership Analysis of an Organization

The following is a critical analysis of the leadership within faith-based organization of which I have become aware through a direct source.

In an email preceding the first organizational leadership meeting nominees for an elected position, which would be voted upon and decided during the meeting, were named. All persons who had been nominated were of the male gender. It was humorously noted in the email that, although qualified females were present available, the nominations made were all male due to the fact that the current executive committee consisted entirely of females and “diversity [would be] a good thing.”
During the organizational leadership meeting, the nominees were asked to make a speech regarding their reasons for seeking the position. Afterwards, the nominees were led outside of the classroom in order to allow for voting to take place. Before voting began, the presiding officer of the election asked fellow voters if they would like to engage in discussion regarding the nominations. Going through the list of names, the presiding officer asked ‘if anyone had any thoughts they would like to share.’ Although few persons expressed desire to discuss the election matter, the officer continued to list out the names of the nominees, pausing briefly after each name to allow for any comments to be made. Towards the end of the list of nominees, the presiding officer paused after reading the name of the only African American nominee and briefly reemphasized the “need” for diversity. No other nominee was discussed in any extent in any context.
The vote, decided by a show-of-hands, determined the African American nominee as the new representative. Before bringing the nominees back into the room, the officer briefly reminded students of the “confidentiality” of voting procedures.

In an analysis of the organizational patterns described above, it is apparent that the leadership is in a critical need of reevaluation and reform. The organization’s actions in disqualifying qualified female candidates to an elected position, and showing a preference to a certain candidate solely on the basis of race are dangerous signals of the presence sexist and racist practices. Yet no group members made any apparent vocal objection to the organizational procedures. How did this happen?
The leadership behaviors of this organization manifested characteristics of groupthink. According to Janis, "laughing together about a danger signal, which labels it as a purely laughing matter," is a manifestation of groupthink (Janis, 1971). This is clearly present in the email sent to members of the group before the organizational meeting. Belittling the idea that women were excluded from an election in favor of “diversity” is a danger signal. The members of the group seemed to believe unquestioningly in an “inherent morality” of the group, and have allowed ethical and moral consequences of their actions to be ignored (Janis, 1971).
The presiding officer of the election further encouraged groupthink during the organizational meeting by initiating public discussions regarding the nominees. Group members were unlikely to voice descending opinions about either the nominees or discomfort with the lack professionalism in procedural matters due to “binding factors” such as politeness, awkwardness of withdrawal, and a desire to uphold initial promise of participation, which can trap a person into “concurrence seeking” norms (Milgram, 1974; Janis, 1971). Particularly in a public forum, an “illusion of unanimity” can become very dominant, encouraging group members with dissenting opinions to practice self-censorship (Scharff, 1995). The “illusion of unanimity” is strengthened by the school of thought that “any individual who remains silent [...] is in full accord with what others are saying” (Janis 1971). The show-of-hands voting procedure was another powerful endorsement of groupthink, as it is very difficult to escape powerful psychological pressures of a group particularly when one is voting publicly within a group.

This is a very pertinent example of why good leadership is needed, even in organizations which are not perhaps as prominent as the corporations or government operations we often read about within the context of our class. A continuation of groupthink behavior can lead to an overall culture of discontent within a group, despite members being unwilling to voice their dissent. It can lead unethical decision making and moral questions regarding the mission of the organization as a whole. Corrupt organizational procedures can also be detrimental to persons who became leaders through such means, regardless of lack of awareness to the situation and their qualifications and expertise.