Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Marriage and Social Responsibility (In Which I Try Not to Share Too Much Personal Information)

Our first day of this class, I happened to mention to one of our classmates (who has since dropped the class) that I would be getting married relatively soon. She responded jokingly (at least, I hope jokingly- it was hard to tell) "Oh, and your future husband is letting you go to grad school?"

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.

Charisma & the Desire for Need Satisfaction

Leadership that inspires the movement of the masses is something that has always been highly intriguing to me. How is it that one person can motivate hundreds of thousands, even millions, of individuals, who in most cases they have never met personally, and inspire them to work towards a common goal? What is it about these leaders that enable them to do this? These massive movements, such as the Indian independence movement, Nazism, or the civil rights movements all had an epicenter of one individual- Gandhi, Hitler, and Dr. King respectively, but trickled out to thousands.

My thoughts on this subject were again brought to life this summer when I read Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven and again, more recently, with the fury of interest that the American public displayed with the initial announcement of Sarah Palin as the VP nominee.

The former, Under the Banner of Heaven, is a story that revolves around a murder that took place in the 80's, but is really a historical account of the birth and rapid growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), also known as Mormonism. Currently, Mormonism is the fastest spreading religious movement in the Western hemisphere with more that 11 million members, and is on track for becoming a major world religion (krakauer 3-4). How this movement came to be and continues to sprawl was the result of the initial action of one individual. The LDS church was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, a man, who it has been inferred, was the embodiment of a charismatic individual if there ever was one. "He [Joseph Smith]," Krakauer writes, "was imbued with that exceedingly rare magnetism - an extraordinary spiritual power that always seems to be wrapped in both great mystery and great danger" (Krakauer 112). A firsthand account described Smith as follows, "The zest for living that he radiated never failed to inspire his own people with a sense of the richness of life. They followed him slavishly and devotedly, if only to warm themselves in the glow of his presence" (krakauer 113).

These descriptions beg to question whether it truly is solely this charismatic essence that is responsible for these movements. Is charisma a requisite needed in order to rally a significant following such as this? Acting as a magnet, as Krakauer delineates, that attracts followers? I would argue that, as Choi does, charisma certainly plays a vital role in these occurrences, but it is not the only role that is at play here. Another element that propels these movements is the potential satisfaction of a human need(s) - (in some cases, this can actually be thought of as an extension of situational theory). Choi writes, "a charismatic leader generally generates positive individual and organizational outcomes by displaying behaviors that stimulate followers' needs" and I agree with this. In each of these situations there has been a human craving among many individuals, be it equal rights, or security, or the sense that life is being lived "right", that needs to be satisfied. Charismatic leadership, it seems, can be thus understood as a dynamic force whose fundamental backbone responsible for initiating social movement is the combination of a 'Charismatic Leader' plus 'A Purpose that Satisfies a Need'. I do not think that there are the only factors contributing to a movement's continuation, however. Various factors must occur in order to keep the momentum going- to highlight one: the role that followers play. Through their interactions with each other and outsiders, they have the ability to influence and increase the movement. By passing on "tales" of and interactions with their "great leader", followers have the ability to elevate their leaders to legendary status and in doing so attract more followers.

This is but one facet of the evolution of social movements, of which I don't have space to go further, but it is interesting to explore the core elements at play that allow these movements to get underway and sustain themselves.