Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Making the Band

In a marching band there are different dynamics that create a combination of unity and harmony. The role of a leader can be seen in several ways, but also have an interesting relationship with the idea of followership. Are you a leader if your followers are just following the rules of authority?

The word “leader” is a part of the title of Section Leader and can create a certain level of “legitimate power” based on the title. According to Hackman and Johnson (1991), “legitimate power is one’s formal or official power” and is not the same thing as leadership (p. 342). In addition, they note that it is “possible for followers to use their legitimate power to influence leaders” (p. 342). So while their title may give them some power and authority they can also be viewed as followers of the Drum Major and Band Director. Can you be a leader and a follower at the same time? Or are you just being an “effective follower”? According to Kelley (1988), “the key to being an effective follower is the ability to think for oneself and to work without close supervision” (p. 144). They are following the orders of the Drum Major and the Band Director, but also going above and beyond the rest of their section. This leads to the concept that while the Section Leaders are “following”, they also have followers. With this theory, they may not be followers to the Section Leaders at all, but just doing what they are told to do. In this circumstance, there may be a limited option to participate as an “effective follower” because of the need for uniformity and structure. With that being the case, Section Leaders may no be longer viewed as leaders, but instead as effective followers and coordinators.

They may hold traits that could be considered leadership qualities. According to Choi (2006), leaders are empathetic with charismatic leadership (p. 24). Section Leaders are supposed to motivate their sections and may show empathy to build trust and inspire their band members. It could be argued by Choi that these traits in addition to interpersonal skills related to these traits show that Section Leaders are leaders . These traits could bring the unity necessary to have a successful section, which in turn creates a successful overall band.

According to Ross (1991), sometimes a leader may need to be a follower and a follower has the role of a leader (p. 191). A section leader seems to validate this theory as well as show the equality of importance to both the role of leader and follower. The band’s optimal performance may have many factors, but the Section Leader’s role as both follower and leader seems to be equally valuable to the band’s success.

"Parent"ship--Are Good Parents Considered Good Leaders?

I was talking to my mother just the other day, as I was debating topics to touch upon for the blog. To jumpstart my thought process, she asked me who I considered to be the greatest “leader.” My response: “You.” The more I dwelled upon it, the more I began to postulate about the role leadership plays in parenthood…or “parent”ship perhaps.

If you consider yourself to have grown up in what you have deemed under the guidance of great “parent”ship, reflect for a moment on what it IS about your parental figures that made them so successful in turning you as young, intelligent, achievers out into this challenging world. Did they motivate, inspire, and seek to develop you as a person? Did they lead by example? Maybe it was just their understanding and compassion that you foundation admirable?

Browsing through many of the theorists observed during class time, parenting to me exhibits several prime examples of those characteristics we as young academics have deemed “leader” worthy. Heifitz claims that leadership is value-laden that is an activity focusing on mobilizing, influencing, adaptive work, with the end-goal as the target. Could this not too be said of parents, who want their children to be independent, successful individuals? Parenting is a “relationship” just as leadership is a relationship, both between leaders and followers (MacGregor).
And isn’t communication key between parent and child with regards to expectations (Hackman and Johnson). Even obedience to authority (Milgram) is demonstrated in a “parent”ship. Don’t we ask of our children to learn to obey and respect authorities? I also would argue that the majority of parents exercise “socialized leaderhip” (Sashken), working as a leader for great goods, goals, and needs rather than their own selfish needs. What about good or poor parenting? Could we then compare this to good and bad leadership? When I think of bad parenting, I think of either emotionally overbearing parenting, or apathetic, turn-the-other-cheek parenting. I might also say the same as ineffective leaders, whose subordinates feel that their managers (key word: “managers” as opposed to leaders) either do not care about their performance, or hover to the point of inability to perform.

The role of “power” in parenting, I also see as significant. We touched on in class the hierarchy of powers during our class discussion. I have to say, I think that for parenting, the influence of the power varies over the development of the child. From young on, our parents have both a legitimate power, but also a coercive and rewards power. Maybe as a child you were rewarded when you said “please” and “thank you,” through rewarding power. But if you ever pushed back, refusing to finish your green peas, there was threatening of no desert or receiving an early bedtime. Over time though, I would ague that the power shifts from reward and coercive power, to referent and expert power. Through high-school and college, we begin to maybe not see our parents are vessels of punishment and reward, but instead as individuals once in our shoes, whom we have now come to respect.

If we are to accept that “parent”ship is a type of leading responsibility, I then postulate if leadership can be taught in such a respect. We have wondered whether leadership can or cannot be taught. I then ask, can parenting be taught or is it too situationally and innately influenced, in much the same way that we question whether leadership can be taught? Similarly, are there certain traits that might make some parents better than others, or do all parents come across the opportunity to be shaped and developed by the environment of the child? Personally, I believe that “value” can be taught. But, good parenting, or “parentship” I think is much like we have discussed in class: I think it can be improved and expanded upon, but that there are many other factors that feed into successful leaders.

“Parent”ship takes the holistic meaning of a “full-time” job. There is no “vacation” time. There is no “quitting,” “relocating,” or “firing.” It’s a commitment. I believe that parents are indeed a type of great leader. While yes, they may be able to hire and fire, and true, may have an additional emotional component to the job, I believe good parents can indeed be seen as good leaders. HOWEVER, I would argue against one who says that good leaders exhibit characteristics that make good parents.

Brain Mapping and Leadership

Pierre Balthazard, a professor at the Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, claims to have indentified parts of the brain that enable someone to be a good leader. This claim furthers the debate about whether leaders are born or made. Balthazard uses EEGs (electroencephalography) to produce a ‘brain map’ of his subjects. By looking at the brain map, he claims he can predict a person’s capacity for certain traits linked to leadership.

Balthazard is currently working with the US Military to develop a model that will allow them to scan soldier’s brain for complexity. This will allow the military to determine the complexity of that soldier’s brain; the more complex a brain, the better situational awareness and adaptive thinking the person has. Balthazard refers to traits like brain complexity and transformational leadership as precursors to leadership itself. This would seem to indicate that Balthazard believes leaders are born, and the complexity of brains, as seen via brain maps, show who will be a good leader. Balthazard does not take into account differing situations.

While Balthazard is excited by the possibility of determining leadership from brain scans, he is more excited about the possibility of brain training and improving leadership skills. This would make it seem that Balthazard believes leadership can be made through adequate training of the brain. Balthazard believes that brains can be trained using positive and negative reinforcement. This would be possible because a subject would be wired to a software program to recognize the correct functioning of a specific part of the brain and if the brain is not performing correctly, there is negative feedback.

However, others are more skeptical of Balthazard’s research. Others believe that it is difficult to develop something such as leadership. Dr. Bob Kentridge, a researcher at Durham University in England, thinks that even if you find differences in brains of people who have different leadership abilities, it’s hard to say that the difference in brains in attributable only to leadership and not a variety of other factors. It also does not take into account differing forms of leadership in different situations.

The ideas of whether a leader can be born or made are found within this article. Balthazard developing the idea of brain mapping and relating level of brain complexity to leadership ability would lead one down the road to believe that leaders are born. But his idea of training the brain to become a better leader contradicts that thought and leads one to believe leaders are made. Is this taking trait theory one step farther by mapping the brain and attributing certain traits to the complexity of the brain and the level of effective leadership? Is the idea of a person being born a leader or made into a leader further complicated due to this research?

Leadership in a Time of Crisis

In a time of crisis, leadership can be a rare but an extraordinary thing to see . Briefly discussed last week, a prime example of this was the case of Cantor Fitzgerald, the US company that lost the most employees in 9/11. Cantor Fitzgerald lost 658 out of 960 US employees in the terrorist attacks that day. However, within two days after 9/11 Cantor Fitzgerald was open and operating, trying to put back together everything that had been destroyed.

How was this possible? Due to the leadership of Cantor Fitzgerald’s Chairman and CEO, Howard Lutnick. Lutnick, whose brother was among the 658 employees that perished, helped reestablish Cantor as a leader in their industry. He also helped provide for Cantor families by donating 25% of Cantor’s revenue for the five years after 9/11 to their families and paying for their healthcare for a decade. He also set up financial planning and investment services for these families to help get them back on their feet. Since 9/11 he has helped raise $180 million dollars for victims families as well as worthy charities.

Faced with this situation, Lutnick could have liquidated the company and considered everything lost. When things hit rock bottom what caused Lutnick to step up and lead his company out of this situation?

Was it his individual traits? During this time Lutnick showed empathy toward people’s situations and feelings. He cared and helped provide for families even after loved ones were gone. He showed courage in the face of chaos. However can this be accredited to his inborn traits, or due to the situation he was faced with? As Selznick says “leadership is a kind of work done to meet the needs of a social situation” (pg. 22) and McGregor recommends that it is “fruitful to consider leadership as a relationship between the leader and the situation” (pg. 182). Considering these points, would Lutnick have garnered so much acknowledgement as a model leader without such an event as 9/11 occurring? Also, considering leadership as a relationship not only with the situation but also among the followers, does Lutnick’s success as a leader during this tragic time reflect the fact that he had “effective followers” (Kelley, pg. 196)? The people that showed up to the office two days after this tragedy were truly committed employees who were courageous and weren’t afraid to take on the extra work and challenges in this hard situation. Burn’s states that “leaders and followers are engaged in a common enterprise; they are dependent on each other, their fortunes rise and fall together” (pg. 426). Lutnick and his followers were devoted toward a common goal, keeping the company afloat not just for their jobs, but to preserve the company in memory of the deceased. They were living these tragedies together. It would have been impossible for Lutnick to turn everything around by himself. His followers played an important role in his strength and success during this time.

In our world of terrorist attacks, failing economies and tragic natural disasters, it is important to understand the capabilities and roles of leaders in crisis situations. By doing this, we can ultimately understand as leaders or followers ourselves how to be more effective in producing change and favorable results.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gleeful Followership

This is officially your opportunity to admit to the world how much you love ABC's new show "Glee." No? Just me? Well, you're missing out. And as I've watched the characters develop over the first few episodes, styles of followership have become evident. Each eccentric character of the high school glee club fits right into one of Robert Kelley's followership patterns: Tina, a yes person; Rachel, an effective follower; Finn, an effective follower; Kurt, an effective follower; Artie, a sheep; and Mercedes, a very active survivor. I could write a ton on each person's traits that make them a certain type of follower and/or leader, but instead I would like to focus on the choice of followership.

Still early in the season, Rachel has already decided the leadership (Mr. Schuester) wasn't good enough, got him to leave the group, tried to bring in someone else who failed, and then she happily resigned back into her followership role, allowing Mr. Schuester to take back over the club. She tried something, it failed, and then she made the choice to follow Mr. Schuester's lead, while still acting in many ways as a leader for the other students in the group.

Rachel is potentially a very effective follower, but as Kelley writes, "some potentially effective followers derive motivation from ambition. By proving themselves in the follower's role, they hope to win the confidence of peers and superiors and move up the corporate ladder. These people do not see followership as attractive in itself." This accurately describes Rachel's constant fluctuation between being an effective follower, and her tendency to quit when she can't be in charge. There are many times throughout the show that she chooses to follow effectively. Followership is a choice. Each student in the Glee Club has chosen to be a part of something larger than them, and to take the lead of others.

But if we assume that followership is a choice, which I believe it is, what are the circumstances that persuade us to choose what type of follower we will be? Must you try something, like Rachel did, and fail before you are willing to be a follower? Or is there a moment when you weigh the pros and cons of being a follower and you decide what type you'll be? And finally, is it possible for us to create a general definition for what these moments might look like, or is it unique for every individual in every circumstance?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Teacher as a Leader

A person who wants to make something of his life needs to take action. He initiates action when he feels confident about himself. It is important for him to understand what action can produce a desired outcome and to have the confidence that he can actually produce the desired response. This belief that the capability to act in the desired manner exists in him is the result of the relationship he shares with the leader.

When I think of such a relationship, what comes to my mind as the most powerful example is the relationship between a teacher and a student.The impact that a teacher can have on students has always left me amazed. It has led me to believe that a teacher can be a very influential leader in a student's life if the relationship between them is characterized by certain qualities.

Carl Rogers, a famous humanistic psychologist, in his ‘Client-Centered Therapy' used the terms ‘empathy’, 'non-judgmental attitude' and 'unconditional positive regard' to describe the relationship between a therapist and a client. The leadership process between a teacher and a student can be understood in the light of these qualities. The quality of 'empathy' is the building block of the relationship as a student feels understood by his teacher. Pagonis in his article on leadership talks about the importance of the leader being empathetic. When the teacher gives feedback about behavior instead of a judgment, a student drops his defenses and develops insight into his weaknesses.The more non-judgmental the teacher, the better he is able to create an environment of openness and receptivity for maximum learning to take place.Through his empathy and non-judgmental attitude, the teacher helps the student clarify his values and goals in life. Zaleznik also talks about the role of sensitive and intuitive mentors in the development of leadership. Teachers can be these mentors who are not only leaders themselves but who develop their students into leaders too.

Therefore, individuals who find themselves in such a positive relationship with their teachers have great confidence in their ability to make changes, to remain committed to goals, to overcome difficulties, and to exercise control. Those who lack confidence in their own ability to influence things lack the motivation to even make a try.

However, there are many teachers who can have a very negative impact on the student .A teacher who is not empathetic and does not try to look at the student’s perspective, leaves him emotionally untouched. To add to it he may be judgmental and label the student, in which the student might find himself trapped for life. A teacher who treats him worthy of regard based on his performance, may leave him to question his value as a human being.

Who is a better leader during globalization

Our semester went into session one month ago. During our class, I observed that American students always put forth a lot of opinions and questions in class. This is totally different from what students do in China and Taiwan. In the Chinese education system, teachers teach and students listen, so it results in the students lacking the ability of critical thinking who rarely doubt what the teacher teaches. This made me think about how hard it must be for multinational companies to operate effectively in different cultures. They must change their management system and send some competent employees who know how to lead well in different cultural backgrounds, to other branches overseas. In addition, some countries are not encouraging of female employees, which would be harder for women to obtain opportunities to work abroad.
However, Mercer Human Resource Consulting reported in 2006 that employers sent more females on international assignments than male employees. Why? Are women better leaders? According to Robert, Philip, and Sarah (2004), one of reasons is that local people do not suppose that the behavior of expatriate women is not the same as local women. Additionally, women possess a developed sense of cultural awareness and emotional intelligence. Due to their curiosity, they spend more time figuring out cultural differences, so involvement in a different culture is not a big problem for them. Emotional intelligence makes them adept at reading the body language. They are also self-reflective and reflect how their behavior impacts others, as shown by WJM associates. These traits are beneficial for international assignments.
The above finding is a proof that different circumstances generate different leaders. In the past, people worked in order to make a living. Nowadays, the living standards have been greatly enhanced. People do not worry about their life, so they focus more on the social needs relating to their self-esteem and satisfaction. Therefore, a good leader must be able to enhance the self-esteem and self achievement of his team members. A great many firms have launched branches in China, India, and other Asian countries which can give rise to different cross cultural problems. Women are more capable of dealing with such cross cultural problems, because they possess more of the leadership traits needed for meeting these contemporary business challenges.

Power Source Pecking Order - How Influencial is Each Source of Power?

Throughout the last several months, few topics have received more concentrated press coverage than health care reform - and no doubt this coverage is warranted and necessary due to the implications of any such reform - or lack of reform, depending on whom you ask. In the context of our recent discussion of sources of power, it seemed interesting to consider what sorts of power are at play in this debate.

In a recent WSJ opinion article, David Rivkin and Lee Casey describe the Federal mandates that characterize the plans put forward so far for health-care reform as "profoundly unconstitutional." Their article mentions the Baucus Bill specifically as an example, stating that "[under Baucus' plan] people who do not maintain health insurance for themselves and their families would be forced to pay an 'excise tax' of up to $1,500 per year" (Rivkin and Casey). The objection here has to do with the limits of Congress’ power:

“Taxation can favor one industry or course of action over another, but a ‘tax’ that falls exclusively on anyone who is uninsured is a penalty beyond Congress's authority. If the rule were otherwise, Congress could evade all constitutional limits by ‘taxing’ anyone who doesn't follow an order of any kind—whether to obtain health-care insurance, or to join a health club, or exercise regularly, or even eat your vegetables.”

Now my goal in this post is not to promote my personal opinions regarding health-care reform, but to identify and attempt to qualify the sources of power at play. Rivkin and Casey were attorneys for Bush Sr.’s administration and often contribute collaboratively to the National Review. Given their former occupations, I believe it is fair to assign Legitimate Power to Rivkin and Casey, and, depending on your own particular perspective, Expert Power is most likely in order as well. Although they do not currently hold office, I think that high-level attorneys do hold a level of authority granted by their position and thus Legitimate Power is a fair assignment, and no doubt they are entrenched in the matter enough to be called experts.

What is interesting about Legitimate and Expert sources of power is that they have allowed Rivkin and Casey to make a significant impact on the current conversation regarding health-care reform. I am not certain that these two were the first to describe the aforementioned mandates as a unconstitutional taxation, but they have no doubt taken strides towards unifying the argument and presenting it in fairly accessible terms. Furthermore, the conclusion of their argument has taken center stage in the health-care debate. This seems to be the advantage of Legitimate Power and Expert Power – the conclusions drawn by those with such power will not only be accepted – if they are to be accepted at all – but propagated as well, even enthusiastically.

So what about the other sources of power? Again, not taking sides. On Sunday (9/20), President Obama set the record for number of Presidential television appearances in a day by conducting five interviews on major television networks. Obviously President Obama has Legitimate Power, and, in similar terms as was discussed with Rivkin and Casey, it would be unfair to withhold from him the possession of Expert Power. In addition to these sources of power, though, President Obama has made an additional appeal to Referent Power. Using relaxed and at times vernacular phrasing, President Obama’s interviews, in my opinion, have reinforced his face and voice as representative of health-care reform. What is the result of this appeal to Referent Power? Some say his appearances were “too much too late,” to win over any new hearts, but I also think it is important to note that for those who are convinced by his call and plan for reform, the use of Referent Power most likely would solidify previously held beliefs on the matter. Would Referent Power be enough to change the character of a national conversation? I am not sure, but in this case, I am inclined to say not so much as would Legitimate and Expert power.

So where do Coercive and Reward Power play into the debate? I think they likely exist mainly on the fringes, such as with extremists touting the great rewards of... whatever they support; fill in the blank. The same is true of coercive power – extremists would likely tell of the horrible and inevitable consequences of conducting - or not conducting - health-care reform. Granted, no political pundit actually has at his or her disposal any degree of actual reward or coercive power (perhaps that raises another question: Does describing the result of an appeal to power, even if that power is not actually possessed, in some way qualify as an authentic appeal to that power source?), but if these appeals to power sources can be considered legitimate, I think that far left and far right pundits alike are the only few who make any real attempts at them. Do you consider anything that the more mainstream sources have said so far to be an appeal directly to reward or coercive power?

I have just argued for the existence of a hierarchy of Power Sources, but as a final note, I think it is worth mentioning that like so much of what we have discussed in Leadership Theory and Behavior, situation matters. I think there probably is some form of pecking order when it comes to how persuasive certain appeals to sources of power can be, but that order must be inherently dependent on the circumstances of the appeal. Whereas Legitimate and Expert Power may afford the greatest influence in the health-care reform debate, another situation, even another political issue, would no doubt call for an appeal to one or several of the other sources of power.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Gridiron Greatness Is Due To Effective Leadership/Followership

After watching a round of college football on Saturday (being devastated that my alma mater suffered an upset loss) and browsing through the upcoming readings, I thought what better model of leadership through followership is there than football? Football brings individuals together to achieve a common goal by fostering perseverance, a strong work ethic and instilling mental toughness. The sport cultivates a culture of leadership by forming a troupe of effective followers. A coach must prepare and give his team all the tools necessary in order to achieve success. Outlining a vision and getting a team to embrace this work strategy is a crucial component of a coach’s success. An effective coach must also embody aspects of servant leadership through building a strong network of players and giving them priority in his work. However, this type of followership in football is not purely blind obedience but rather players must take what they learn and adapt it to each of their different situations when game time rolls around. Flexibility in following a plan and adaptability in the face of adversity are critical attributes for a successful football team. This too can be said of any leadership-followership institution.  Many college football teams across the country utilize a “no-huddle” offense which attempts to manipulate the defense by throwing them off balance. While the quarterback and other receivers are interpreting signals from their coaches on the sideline, ultimately the quarterback must make the decision on what play must be called after he quickly analyzes the defensive formation. In this situation, leadership responsibility is delegated to a follower. In the article by Joseph Rost, the author writes that followers can become leaders and leaders can become followers (Rost 191). At any point in the game any player can take on the responsibility of being a leader such as a linebacker calling out defensive adjustments. Rost continues that “followers do not do followership but rather leaders and followers do leadership” (Rost 192). Coaches and players are dependent upon each other and must form a cohesive relationship in order to win.

            Football viewed through the lens of a distributed perspective on leadership can portray hierarchical levels involving the head coach, position coaches, and players. John Spillane specifies that distributed leadership is about the practice rather than the leaders, leadership roles or leadership functions (Spillane 2). This perspective is defined by the interactions that individuals have with each other rather than just analyzing the actions of the leader. In football, the head coach delegates leadership to his various position coaches. These position coaches work with their respective players preparing them to become the leaders on the field. As summarized by Spillane, this “collective distribution” allows the head coach to effectively prepare his team by delegating authority to others who work separately but interdependently (Spillane 6).

            When a football program has a losing season, does this necessarily mean the team is composed of ineffective followers? If a team continually loses, this must surely mean to some extent that the athletes and even assistant coaches have not fully embraced the head coaches vision and have failed to act on it. This raises the question is a leader or a follower responsible for failure of an organization? Does an effective leader always produce success and does an ineffective leader always fail? Does this explain the difference between the leadership of Urban Meyer and Charlie Weiss?

(Go U NU!)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Leaders Need to be Listeners


When I opened up to the local news section of The Tennessean today, this headline caught my eye: “Calling Councilwoman Murray: Please do your job.” This was quite the serious accusation. Here, a public leader was being criticized for not doing what she was elected by her followers to do. I admit that I don’t usually follow the local news since I have yet to consider myself a permanent Nashville resident, so I didn’t have a clue what Councilwoman Murray might have been up to lately. After reading this column, I found myself sharing the author’s frustration. Councilwoman Murray does not respond to any of her phone calls, and her constituents are petitioning for her removal. This leader is ignoring one of the most important skills that one must possess: the skill of listening.

We all took listening tests in elementary school. We listen to our professors and classmates for three hours at a time. We know how to do it. It’s an ability we all have, but some use it far better than others.

Reading this column about a public leader that isn’t listening to her followers got me thinking about how listening plays a vital role in all forms of leadership, even within a company or organization. Listening is one whole side of communication. What good could come from a leader who has a charismatic personality that can enrapture his employees but who doesn’t listen to what they have to say in return? A manager could tell his workers what to do all day long, but what if he ignores their suggestions about ways to make the product better or to present an idea in a more creative way? A leader who can only communicate in one direction can hardly be called an effective leader. In addition to having frustrated employees, the leader will be missing out on a vast source of knowledge and new ideas from his employees. The leader might have the full power of decision-making, but what good is that power without input from others?

In “Leadership Communication Skills,” Hackman and Johnson describe how two-way communication plays a large role in leadership. Not only do they explicitly mention listening as a leadership skill, they explain that taking inputs from others, taking cues from the environment, and soliciting feedback from others makes leaders successful (429). Leaders listen to their followers, and then use these inputs to form their agenda.

Listening will also improve the relationship between leaders and followers, which will help the leader attain more referent power. According to Hughes, Ginnett, and Curphy, referent power is what gives the leader the ability to influence those with whom he or she has built a strong relationship. These interpersonal connections can be strengthened through communication, and this means the leader must take time to listen to the followers. With referent power, the leader will then have more loyal followers who share in the leader’s vision (341).

What better way for a public leader like Councilwoman Murray to be a successful leader than to improve her relationship with her constituents. If she listened to them, she would hear their input and recognize what they needed from her as a leader. Had she strengthened her interpersonal connections with them, she would be able to better influence the community with her goals, and she might find more agreeable followers who are willing to accept her plans.