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.