Thursday, September 30, 2010

Never Too Old for Disney...

In preparing for today’s class, one leader and his legacy immediately came to mind while reading the excerpt on “Responsible Leadership” from Selznick’s Leadership in Administration. Walt Disney, the famed creator of Mickey Mouse and a multitude of other characters, built an entertainment empire based on the simple mission statement, “to make people happy.” With this vision in mind, The Walt Disney Company continues to produce high-quality family entertainment in a myriad of different markets. This vision statement provides a solid foundation for goal-setting, which Selznick states, in order to be “institutionally meaningful, is framed in the language of character or identity, that is, it tells us what we should ‘do’ in order to become what we want to ‘be.’” Disney’s does just that – although their consumer reach is extremely diversified, all corporate efforts and initiatives have their roots in providing entertainment, or making people happy.

Furthermore, Disney models what Selznick describes as creative leadership. More than being a creative genius and the head of an organization, Selznick claims this practice has two aspects that synthesize the two roles: “the institutional embodiment of purpose” and the exercise of creativity “by strategic and tactical planning.” Disney’s commitment to the former can be seen in the development of Disney University, an intensive onboarding program for what one might consider the low-ranking employees: the costumed characters that wander around at amusement parks. However, Disney leaders choose to invest in their training to ensure that the organization’s mission and culture permeates the on-the-job attitude and behavior of all their employees. As Selznick noted in an earlier chapter of this book, “Truly accepted values must infuse the organization at many levels,” and this assertion is evident and applied within the Disney culture.

The second aspect, the strategic and tactical execution of creativity, is clearly a part of Disney’s legacy as well. Walt Disney’s cartoon studio blossomed into a multi-billion corporation through a gradual expansion process. Walt was eager to try new things, moving from short cartoons to films to merchandise to theme parks to digital animation and beyond. Each of these initiatives that originated internally within the company reflected the “changing relation between the organization and its environment;” as consumer demands of the entertainment industry evolved, Disney has adapted and delivered in creative and innovative ways.

Ultimately, Walt Disney successfully took on one of the prime functions of leadership, according to Selznick: “ the task of building special values and a distinctive competence into the organization.” Disney’s core values and vision of making people happy has cultivated not only a strong and profitable organization, but a followership that extends beyond the Disney family of employees to the millions who enjoy Disney’s creations time and time again.


"Company History." The Walt Disney Company and Affiliated Companies. Web. 29 Sept. 2010. .

Selznick, P. “Some Premises about Leadership,” pp. 22-28. Leadership in Administration. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1975.

Selznick, Philip. “Responsible Leadership,” pp. 142-154, from Leadership in Administration, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1975.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Leadership of the Ring

Two of the primary leaders in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series, Aragorn and Sauron, embody vastly different leadership styles. Sauron's calculating, selfish leadership did nothing to help his followers and served only to advance his own personal desires at any cost. Aragorn, on the other hand, displayed a much more effective style of leadership that aimed to improve the lives of all of his followers through the achievement of an ultimate vision.

Sauron exemplifies what Goleman would consider coercive leadership. He demanded that his followers submit to his every whim, even if it meant sacrificing their own lives. He set no higher goal beyond meeting his demands and provided his followers with no way to achieve self-actualization, let alone become leaders in their own right. Sauron is the perfect example of Choi's selfish, ineffective "personalized" leader.

In fact, Sauron's leadership skills were so lacking that he had been defeated multiple times prior to the formation of the Fellowship of the Ring and often had to resort to tricks, coercion, and even torture to fulfill his egotistical desires. Furthermore, Sauron did not have the requisite follower and institutional support to survive a major external crisis (when the Ring was destroyed). Because his power was not, as MacGregor emphasizes, the result of an effective leader-follower relationship, he was certain to fail.

Aragorn, on the other hand, is arguably both a charismatic and visionary leader. By having a clear, focused vision to destroy the ring, he manages to unite all of his followers, from elves to wizards to hobbits, in achieving that vision. Along the way, he works to ensure that his followers are kept safe and ultimately, empowered to fight for the vision on their own.

As opposed to Sauron's personalized leadership style, Aragorn is also what Choi would consider a highly successful socialized leader. He works with his top-level management (The Fellowship) all the way down to his infantry to ensure that the ultimate goal of destroying the ring is met.

Along the way, he motivates his followers to become leaders themselves. All of those surrounding Aragorn (Gimli, Legolas, Frodo, etc) overcome their petty differences after Aragorn sets an example and clearly defines both the group's goal and its basic method of achieving that goal. His leadership skills and actions within the situation successfully overcame centuries of fighting and conflict between various Middle-Earth groups and instead focused their energy on the more productive mission of destroying the Ring.

Despite a myriad of both external and internal conflicts, Aragorn managed to achieve his ultimate goal and transition into a new position as King of Gondor. Though his followers overwhelmingly wanted to crown him king even before the Ring was destroyed, he put the mission of the group first and refused to be crowned until he was sure that the group would not fall to infighting when it should be focused on defeating Sauron and achieving its initial goal.

Both of these leaders achieved results, which is, according to Goleman, the primary job of leadership. However, the methods in which they achieved these results, not to mention the actual results themselves, were widely varied in their styles, relationship with their followers, and effectiveness.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The surprising truth of motivation

Yesterday, WPLN news, Nashville’s local public radio station, ran a piece that directly applies to our work. The news story, entitled Study finds no test score boost from teacher incentives, reports that monetary incentives for teachers did little to boost student test scores.

This study conducted by Vanderbilt University and commissioned by the US Department of Education, tracked middle school math teachers here in Nashville for three years. According to the report, half of the teachers were offered substantial bonuses if students’ scores improved. And the study did find improvement. However, there were similar improvements by classrooms ineligible for the bonuses. These results lead the study director to say “incentives didn’t seem to make a difference.” (Cardona, 2010)

So the million dollar question is not only finding what motivates improved students’ test scores, but also finding what motivates teachers to work towards improved test scores. More broadly, leaders and managers, and US Department of Educations, must look at what motivates people as they seek to generate results such as improved test scores, higher productivity, or deeper levels of engagement.

McGregor explores the principles of motivation in his 1960 study about Theory X and Theory Y. He purports that lower level need satisfactions, once met, cease to remain grounds for motivation. For example, McGregor says that once the ‘physiological needs’ are satisfied they no longer are considered a motivator of behavior. (McGregor, 1960) Furthermore, McGregor explains that things like “overtime pay, shift differentials, vacations, health and medical benefits, annuities, and the proceeds from stock purchase plans or profit-sharing plans” do not meet a higher level emotional need and therefore does not lead to motivation. Instead, he calls for management to move towards Theory Y, or a perspective that the “potentialities of the average human being are far above those which we typically realize in industry today.” (1960) Theory Y pushes leadership and organizations to appeal to the higher levels of human consciousness and needs to create motivation and productivity.

The example of the Nashville public school study supports the proposition by Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy (1993) that “extrinsic rewards like praise, compensation, promotion, privileges, and time off may not have the same effects of behavior as intrinsic rewards such as feelings of accomplishment, personal growth, and development.” (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 1993)

Choi (2006) also speaks to motivation based on higher levels of self-actualization through envisioning and empowering workers to engage in the fulfillment of the vision. (Choi, 2006) Additionally, Goleman (2000) offers that the authoritative leader, or one who offers a vision and “motivates people by making clear to them how their work fits into a larger vision for the organization,” has the most positively correlated affect on organizational climate which is linked to motivation and productivity. (Goleman, 2000)

And modern ‘pop-theorists’ like Daniel Pink couldn’t agree more. Pink offers that motivation isn’t about money at all. But rather it’s about fitting into the bigger picture and feeling like an individual’s work is of value. He’s created a brilliant video that visually illustrates the variations in the aforementioned theories. It’s worth the 7 minutes it takes to watch.

Although theorists are possibly getting closer to the elusive catalyst that motivates teachers, they still have a ways to go to translate that into improved test scores. Perhaps Vanderbilt University will be leading the study again.

Works Cited

Cardona, N. (2010, September 21). Study finds no test score boost from teacher incentives. Retrieved September 22, 2010, from

Choi, J. (2006). A motivational theory of charismatic leadership: Envisioning, empathy, and empowerment. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies , 24-43.

Goleman, D. (2000). Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review , 78-90.

Hughes, R., Ginnett, R., & Curphy, G. (1993). Power, influence, and influence tactics. In R. Irwin, Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience (pp. 339-351).

McGregor, D. (1960). Theory X: The traditional view of direction and control. NY: McGraw-Hill.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Obama and his "mojo"

This morning CNN posted an article entitled, “How did Obama lose his mojo?” ( As the president approaches the midway mark of his first term in office, many Americans are analyzing his effectiveness in leading our nation and whether he has lived up to the high expectations that the nation held when he was elected. While so many Democrats supported Obama in the beginning, many of these politicians are beginning to stray because of the lack of significant accomplishments on the agenda. While there is no doubt that the administration has made progress and achieved some goals, there are many people who feel too much was promised and not enough was gained in a quick amount of time.

Immediately, I began to think of our class discussions on charismatic leadership and the characteristics that define the leaders that are so influential in our world. Dubbed a “campaign superstar,” President Obama promised the nation a “transformational presidency” and represented a changing country. He won the support of so many and began to be the more popular candidate due to his charismatic personality; however, does our president’s dropping approval ratings prove that charisma is not all that a nation needs in its leader? Is charisma only effective if you believe in the goals and values of the individual you are following and if that person can fulfill your expectations? Can charisma be as harmful as it is beneficial, and can a leader truly lose this admired characteristic?

Rakesh Khurana writes in his article “The Curse of the Superstar CEO,” “the charismatic CEO…was expected to offer a vision of a radically different future and to attract and motivate followers for a journey to the new promised land.” Obama certainly followed this characteristic, inspiring the nation to elect him as their leader; however, because not all expectations have been met, individuals are disappointed in the administration’s leadership. Oftentimes, as Khurana writes, when performance slows or fails, followers look to a new “savior”, even if the difficulties are attributed elsewhere. Why do we often place all of the responsibility on a leader and attach the successes and failures solely to them? There are so many other participants and factors that contribute to an accomplishment yet oftentimes they are overlooked. As followers, do we not have a responsibility to also work to fulfill the goals and vision that we associate with our leader? If we do not create an environment of success and opportunities for change and growth, we cannot expect it to happen.

At what point are we, as followers, responsible for the situations we find ourselves in? President Obama is certainly not the only man creating policy and working to implement change, so why does it appear he is the scapegoat for our failures? The CNN article quotes a voter that believed “the president is simply stuck in a toxic political environment.” How do we determine if this is actually the case or if the president’s charisma overshadowed his capabilities to inspire reform?

Regardless of your feelings for a leader, how do you think we should evaluate leadership style and effectiveness? What role does charisma play in the current Obama administration? How does a charismatic leader influence the involvement of his or her followers?

Leadership on The West Wing

I am obsessed with the show The West Wing. I don’t just watch it every once in a while…I own the whole series and play it in the background of my life. For those who don’t know, The West Wing is a fictitious show about the President of the United States. In thinking about our various definitions of leadership, it comes as no surprise that I would be able to write about this show in reference to leadership. However, while watching one episode a couple of weeks ago, I came across a quote that stood out in my mind.

In this episode, the President and the Speaker of the House could not come to an agreement about the budget. The speaker had promised them (the White House) one thing, but when it came time to make the deal, he “pulled a bait and switch.” In that moment, the President decided that there would be no deal and he refused to sign the budget by the deadline. The Federal Government was shut down as a result, but the President was confident in his convictions. While he took a step back, other members of the party and the president’s senior advisors were doing everything in their power to make a deal with the speaker and finalize the budget. At this moment in time, the President’s polls were at its lowest and the country did not have faith in its leader. The Vice President, in trying to fix the situation, met with the Chief of Staff. On his way out the door, the Vice President said, “You know what they call a leader with no followers? Just a guy taking a walk.”

This quote emphasizes the relationship between a leader and his or her followers that are highlighted in our readings. Geneen defines leadership as “the ability to inspire other people to work together as a team, following your lead, in order to attain a common objective…no one can do it all alone. Others must want to follow the leader.” (4) The President, without anyone following him, is not a leader. Their objective is not a common one, and the President is standing alone on a ledge. Though the President has legitimate power because of his position, Hughes, Ginnett, and Curphy state that “holding a position and being a leader are not synonymous.” (144) His position as President alone did not qualify him as being a leader at that point, only as being the head of the country.

When Rost describes the relationship between leaders and followers, he insists that leaders must interact with other people, or followers. “If all the people with whom leaders interacted were other leaders, leadership as a meaningful construct would not make sense.” (190) Leaders, by definition, have to be leading someone. The Vice Presidents thoughts were on par with Rost: if a leader is not leading anyone, then he is not a leader.

Some questions to think about:

Do you agree that a person needs followers to be considered a leader? Can a person of legitimate power, such as the president, ever be a leader without followers? Does the number of followers that a President has affect his role or position as a leader?

John Paul II: A “Rebel with a Cause”

Most people see the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church as a figure head whose duty is to further the Church's interests and “social responsibilities” around the world. But many people of many walks of faith see Pope John Paul II, or Karol Josef Wojtyla, differently. Sharif Khan describes him as, “Heroes are rebels with a cause. Rebels because they challenge the traditional ways of thinking and refuse to follow the herd. They have a cause, a vision, that's larger than life”.

I believe that he draws his power from various pools. First off he has vast expert power because by the time he was named Pope he already was a professor in ethics and had completed two doctorate degrees in theology. Sharif Khan summarizes Wojtyla’s leadership into the following categories: humility, heart, forgiveness, and responsibility. These ideas definitely fall into Choi’s criteria for a charismatic leader, as his vision and empathy were is greatest leadership attributes. He tapped into his followers’ need for affiliation as well as need for achievement. Above all his relationship with his followers is key. He broke many traditions and symbols in the Catholic Church in order to promote his ideals; in doing so he changed the papal role from one of supreme authority to one of servant-hood.

While reading Goleman’s article on getting results, the affiliative style embodies Pope John Paul II. Goleman says that affiliative leaders “manage by building strong emotional bonds and…fierce loyalty. The style also has a markedly positive effect on communication…to build team harmony, increase morale, or repair broken trust.” Wojtyla opened up rather controversial, inter-religious communication like no Pope had done before. Wojtyla was the first pope to visit the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland in 1979, in 2000 he visited Jerusalem's Yad Vashem and prayed for reconciliation between Christians and Jews, and he was the first Pope ever to enter a mosque.

Not only did he involve himself in religious matters, but also in political matters. He took on responsibilities because he did not see people by religion, rather by their need for help. He helped inspire Solidarity in Poland, forgave his attempted assassin, even met with Arafat and Castro. He used his role as Pope to serve the people on their terms. Open communication and the relationship he had with his followers is what granted him the power to become a global figurehead. In Heifetz’s term a leader has to take a stand, be socially useful and engage our values. Under these and the aforementioned examples I consider Wojtyla an effective leader.

But do you think Pope John Paul II’s leadership style could work in someone else’s position? Could a political leader or CEO practice humility, heart, forgiveness, and responsibility? Indeed all of these could be applied to a given situation, but matter of the question is the effectiveness.

Sarah Palin has charisma? You Betcha.

After being selected as John McCain’s running mate in 2008, Sarah Palin has since resigned as Governor of Alaska to become the perceived leader of the Tea Party. She is a conservative author, speaker and television pundit. She describes herself as a “maverick” and a “mama grizzly.”

Charismatic Leadership

Sarah Palin is the clear leader of the Tea Party political movement, whether she admits it or not. The power and influence she has over the Tea Party members is a result of her charismatic personality. In many cases, Sarah Palin has used her influence to move the national debate in a direction that is favorable to the Tea Party. According to Choi, charismatic leaders articulate values and ideological goals attractive to their followers (2006). She then motivates Tea Party members to vote in upcoming elections by endorsing, fundraising and campaigning for candidates that are more conservative. She gives Tea Party members hope that they have the power to shape the country, and encourages them to do so. Choi says that a charismatic leader empowers his or her followers by helping them feel powerful and capable (2006).

Personalized Leadership Style

While Sarah Palin does possess charisma in her ability to lead the Tea Party, it is important to specify which type of charisma: personalized or socialized. The fact that Palin uses her un-official position as leader of the Tea Party to make money and promote her own image suggests that she has a personalized leadership style. Personalized charismatic leadership is described as “exploitative, non-egalitarian, and self-aggrandizing” (Choi, 2006). For example, she charged her own Tea Party followers $100,000 to speak at the Tea Party Convention (, 2010). She attempted to charge a Republican Convention in Iowa $100,000 to appear, but the group was unable to raise the money (Martin, 2009). And finally, the worst example of her exploitation came on September 11, 2010 when she charged Alaskans between $75 and $225 to attend her 9/11 Anniversary Ceremony (Vecsey, 2010). The question Palin supporters must ask: if she is so committed to the cause, then why doesn’t she occasionally speak for free? Choi accurately sums up this kind of personalized leadership style by calling it “the dark side of charismatic leadership” (2006).

Referent Power and Inspirational Tactics

The majority of Americans do not feel Palin is qualified to be President (Langer, 2010). The general feeling is that she does not have the knowledge required to hold the nation’s highest office. However, “one way to counteract the lack of expertise is to build strong interpersonal ties with subordinates” (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 1993). The fact that members of the Tea Party are so enamored by her is evidence of how well she has overcome the lack of knowledge to build strong emotional connections. Palin has a great deal of referent power, which is “the potential influence one has due to the strength of the relationship between the leader and the followers” (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 1993). Palin makes use of this referent power and influences her followers with inspirational tactics that “arouse enthusiasm or emotion” (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 1993). This is shown by her use of hyperbole that is designed to spark strong emotion and controversy. For example, Palin recently said that President Obama doesn’t have the “cojones” to protect the country (MacNichol, 2010). She even suggested that Obama is a socialist (Conroy, 2008). All of this creates excitement among her supporters and elevates her stature.

Why is this important?

Political movements are full of leaders who genuinely believe in the cause and make personal sacrifices. But there are also leaders who use the cause as a vehicle for personal ambitions. It is important for followers to understand the difference and identify the true leaders.

Works Cited

Choi, J. (2006). A Motivational Theory of Charasmatic Leadership: Envisioning, Empathy, and Empowerment. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies , 13 (1), 24-43.

Conroy, S. (2008 йил 19-10). Palin: Obama's Plan Is "Experiment With Socialism". Retrieved 2010 йил 18-9 from CBS News: (2010 йил 3-2). Palin Defends Tea Party Convention, Says Speaking Fee Will Go to the 'Cause'. Retrieved 2010 йил 19-9 from FOX News:

Hughes, R. L., Ginnett, R. C., & Curphy, G. J. (1993). Power, Influence, and Influence Tactics. In Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience. Richard D. Irwin, Inc.

Langer, G. (2010 йил 11-2). Poll: Tea Party Shows Prospects; Less So for Sarah Palin. Retrieved 2010 йил 18-9 from ABC News:

MacNichol, G. (2010 йил 1-8). Sarah Palin Would Like President Obama To Grow A Pair Of ‘Cojones’. Retrieved 2010 йил 18-9 from Mediaite:

Martin, J. (2009 йил 29-10). Iowa Republicans wince at Sarah Palin's $100K speaking fee. Retrieved 2010 йил 19-9 from

Vecsey, L. (2010 йил 8-9). Sarah Palin announces 9/11 event with Glenn Beck in Alaska. Retrieved 2010 йил 19-9 from

The Imperfect Leader - Charlie Brown

Do any of you remember the days when the newspaper would arrive in the mornings and the first section that you would grab was the Comics? At least this was the case for me. Reading short sentences that were supported by cartoon drawing always caught my attention. Skimming through the likes of Marmaduke, Family Circus, Beetle Bailey, and Garfield allowed me to escape from reality and jump into my youthful imagination. In addition, there was one comic in particular that I always saved for last... and that was Peanuts. I fell in love with Charles Schultz’s wide variety of characters and it seemed that there was always a “theme” I could attach myself to on a daily basis. Along with that, the leader of the Peanut Gang, Charlie Brown, always fascinated me because of the lackluster attributes that he showcased.

As we have learned over that first month of class, there are many different theories and theorist who try to put leadership in a certain context. The one that I want to focus on with Charlie Brown is the concept that leaders emerge due to their physical and mental attributes. Before we get started analyzing Charlie through these parameters, I believe that we should first get to know his characteristics. This will open the door for the leadership concepts that Kirkpatrick, De Pree, and Heifitz present.

Many of you may know that Charlie Brown is almost the complete opposite of a physically or mentally appealing leader. The young boy is timid, socially awkward, unathletic, disgruntled, nervous, to just name a few. In short, this fellow is quite the lovable loser… he fails at everything, yet he always gives 110%. From losing every game he pitches to falling for Lucy’s football-kick trick, he simply can not win. Comparing these attributes to those that Kirkpatrick describes, one should believe that Charlie Brown will never be considered a leader. In the article, Leadership: Do Traits Matter, Kirkpatrick (1991) states that “leaders are achievement-oriented, ambitious, energetic, proactive, and tenacious” (pg. 136). None of these describe our lovable loser at all.

Yet for some reason, the Peanut gang always seemed to look to him whenever guidance was needed. Why is this? The rationale behind this, in my opinion, is hidden behind the cloud of negative attributes I just described. After weaving through those negatives, one should notice that Charlie Brown is quite an astounding leader. The perseverance that he shows through adversity is second to none. When the whole Peanut gang sees a lost cause, Charlie sees hope. For example, in the hit Charlie Brown Christmas movie, he moved the thoughts of the Gang toward the real reason for Christmas rather than letting them go on with their commercialized conceptions. As Heifitz (1998) stated in Values of Leadership, leadership is about mobilizing individuals to tackle tough problems. This is exactly what Charlie did and will always do… he will go towards the “good” every time. Hence, Charlie Brown follows Heifitz’s theory and tries to “absorb the stress for his followers” (pg. 17).

All in all, I believe it is important to observe an oddball like Charlie Brown in this context due to the fact that he does not fit the normal mold of a leader. It shows that one does not have to necessarily have outstanding attributes, but more of a guiding model through ones actions. The integrity, which De Pree (1992) calls the “linchpin of leadership”, will override the negative attributes and create the possibility for leadership. Charlie Brown never asked or probably never wanted to be the leader of the Peanut gang, but it is certain that the willingness to succeed was always there no matter how many times he failed. Thus, I leave you with a statement by Charlie Brown that epitomizes this post perfectly, “There must be millions of people in the world that never get love letters… I could be their leader”.

Just to spark some comments, what do you think of Charlie Brown? Could he lead in today’s world?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I provides a classic example of very public leadership. Ruling England for almost 50 years in the 1500s, she embodied many leadership principles discussed in modern theory that are applicable today.

Elizabeth, young and inexperienced, began by surrounding herself with advisors. Most notable of these was William Cecil, who served as Elizabeth's most trusted confidante. Due to their close relationship, Cecil was able to speak more freely to Elizabeth than she would allow anyone else, and indeed she expected him to do so. In this sense Elizabeth was following the directions of Machiavelli, as he says a wise ruler acts by "choosing the wise men in his state, and giving to them only the liberty of speaking the truth to him...he ought to question them upon everything, and listen to their opinions, and afterwards form his own conclusions." (While we are hardly able to count Machiavelli as one of today's "modern" theorists as mentioned above, he can be considered "modern" in the context of Elizabeth. In fact, since The Prince was published in 1532 and Elizabeth began her reign in 1558, and since we know Elizabeth was a scholar, it is perfectly likely that she read his book.)

One point on which Elizabeth did not follow Cecil's counsel was her refusal to marry. Elizabeth was in love with Robert Dudley, an English noble, but she feared that an alliance with any man - be he an Englishman or a foreign monarch - would diminish her authority and tear her country further apart. She showed an understanding of a leader being a servant, that leadership is "a forfeiture of rights," concepts discussed by DePree (1992). An ordinary woman would have been allowed - in fact, encouraged - to succumb to the desires of the man she loved and marry him, but Elizabeth would not allow it for herself. She sacrificed her love of a man for her duty to her country. Leaders today may not usually be faced with this particular dilemma, but the theory of sacrifice remains the same.

Elizabeth began her reign in a country fraught with internal problems. Fortunately for her, her reign was relatively peaceful militarily, allowing her the luxury of focusing on these at-home issues such as the religious divide and nearly-worthless currency. (Note: By "relatively peaceful" I do not mean to diminish the importance of the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, but I'm choosing not to discuss it here.) These problems could not have been addressed successfully by the autocratic methods used by prior rulers - what Elizabeth's contemporaries may have seen as "weakness" in leadership was simply a different style from what they had seen before, and it was a style better suited to the issues at hand than a dictatorial one. I see this as an example of what Stogdill meant when he stated that "the qualities, characteristics, and skills required in a leader are determined to a large extent by the demands of the situation in which he is to function as a leader" (1948). Elizabeth was a leader, and her father Henry was a leader, but they were entirely different leaders due to the state the country was in at the time of their reigns. That Elizabeth was aware of this undoubtedly contributed to her success.

Questions for you:
Would we see Elizabeth in such a historically significant and influential light if she had been a man? Is our view of her subject to the "male chauvanism" described by Bass and Avolio (1994)?

Was Elizabeth "born" or was she "made"? She was born a princess with impressive genetics on both sides (Tudor and Boleyn), but she was disinherited after her mother was executed and she held Protestant beliefs during a decidedly dangerous time for non-Catholics. Which was more influential to her leadership personality?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Muhammad Yunus: A Visionary Leader

As the founder of Grameen Bank and the pioneer of microcredit, Muhammad Yunus has transformed the third world with his visionary leadership. Microcredit is the innovative banking program that provides poor individuals with small loans so that they in turn can become agents of change by launching their own businesses and beginning to address the issue of poverty within their communities. Through his action of making microcredit a reality, Yunus epitomizes Sashkin’s idea of visionary leadership.

According to Marshall Sashkin, there are three major aspects to visionary leadership. “The first consists of constructing a vision, creating an ideal image of the organization and its culture. The second involves defining an organizational philosophy that succinctly states the vision and developing programs and policies that pith the philosophy in practice within the organization’s unique context and culture. The third aspect centers on the leaders’ own practices, the specific actions in which leaders engage on a one-to-one basis in order to create and support their visions” (Sashkin 403).

Muhummad Yunus believes that poverty can totally be conquered in his lifetime is the right approach is adopted. This viewpoint is based on his belief that the inherent ability of the poor can be unleashed once they are given the opportunity to help themselves ( His dream of addressing poverty through an economic development lens became a reality with the establishment of Gramee Bank in Bangladesh, which recognized that credit without collateral is a fundamental right of the poor. Grameen Bank was a grand success and has been widely replicated all over the world. Yunus was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his transformative work in micro-financing.

Finally, I wanted to highlight a fourth type of visionary leadership, which is displaying respect for self and others. This quality is what sets Yunus apart from most leaders. He is not only addressing the overwhelming global issue of poverty, but is empowering and enabling others to become leaders in their community.

Shashkin states that “one of the characteristics of visionary leaders is that we feel good around them because they boost our sense of self-worth by paying attention to us, by trusting us, by sharing ideas with us, by making it clear how important we are as persons” (407).

"Lost" in Leadership Theory

When reading Heifitz's "Values in Leadership" article, I found myself thinking about my favorite television show; Lost. The theory that Heifitz discusses that I feel applies specifically to Lost is the contingency theory. To review, contingency theory states that "different situations demand different personalities and call for different behaviors," and that "the appropriate style of leadership is contingent on the requirements of the particular situation," (Heifitz, 1994, p.17). Anyone who is a Lost fan knows that the leaders of the various groups change as situations on the island change. Ben, Jack, Sawyer, and Jacob can all be considered leaders at one point or another. Even Hugo calls the shots now and then.
In our discussion of contingency theory, I would like to look specifically at Ben. On the island, Ben is a devious and manipulative man who killed his own father in order to gain power. For the majority of the show he is the leader of "the others." Although his tactics are seen by many as evil, he claims he is only doing what is necessary to protect the island and those on the island. However, in a flash sideways (a flash sideways shows the lives the characters would have lead if they were not on the island) Ben is depicted as a mild mannered history teacher with very little power. So, we see that given a different situation Ben is not a leader. Could it be that because there were such dangerous circumstances on the island, a ruthless and manipulative leader was necessary, which drew out Ben's leadership skills?
I believe that most everyone would agree Ben is a negative example of contingency theory. He was willing to kill anyone who got in his way, including his father. His daughter was even killed as a result of his tactics. It could be argued that Jack is a more positive example of contingency theory. There were times when he stepped down as a leader because the situation called for someone different, but his methods were never hostile.
This example is important because it demonstrates how a seemingly harmless person can turn into a destructive leader when the situation calls for it. It is important to understand that it may be necessary to alter a situation in order to get a positive leader.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Leadership in Education

Education inequity in America presented a tremendous problem in policy, communities and state and federal government. By the time students in low income communities enter fourth grade, they are already three to four grade levels behind their counterparts in higher income schools and with only 1 in 10 students growing up in poverty stricken schools graduating from college, is it clear the education system in America is failing the students who need it most (

The state and federal governments were unable to solve this problem, yet a 22-year-old educational pioneer from Princeton University, had a passion and drive to inspire now more than 46.000 of the top college graduates to end educational inequity in America. What began as a senior thesis paper for Wendy Kopp, grew into a $180 million organization recruiting from leaders from the top universities in the nation to join a movement called Teach For America.

Wendy Kopp’s example of leadership is the epitome of Zalenik’s position that “leaders adopt a personal and active attitude towards goals” (1977). Kopp’s mission is clear and concise: to end educational inequity. She is able to promote her goal through education, and in turn has inspired more than 46,000 recent college graduates to support her mission. She is one of the “4 million women entrepreneurs who have started her own corporation” in America (Bass and Avolio, 1994).

The rigorous recruitment process Teach For America employs to recruit high performing college graduates to join the mission is in opposition to the idea presented by McGregor in “An Analysis of Leadership” that high academic achievement does not represent a necessary characteristic for high performance (1966). Teachers recruited by Teach For America must achieve a 3.0 GPA as well as proven leadership skills. Combinations of these accomplishments result in teachers who are able to show significant academic gains.

According to John Gardner, Kopp’s vision for education proves her to be a true leader as she took the initiative to “work with and through extremely complex organizations and institutions” within the government and education sector to develop an organization that would enable her to achieve her goal (1990).

Corps members are introduced to a culture where the only result acceptable is excellence. Kopp created what Gereen describes as “a climate of growth and opportunity… in which each fellow would want to carry his own share, and would be driven to excel not only because I pushed him, but because of peer pressure and pride” (1998).

The structure of Teach For America is designed to involve many people in the organization, rather than a select few. In her organization, Kopp’s leadership style motivates followers to be “more motivated, productive, and satisfied… (they) go beyond their self- interests to concerns for their group or organization” (Bass and Avolio, 1994). In each of the 39 regions, executive directors, program directors, and corps members work together towards the common goal. Leaders in each region are able to run their region effectively because they are given ownership of the needs and abilities of their respective regions.

Teach For America has grown into a national force affecting education. I believe this is due largely to the fact that Wendy Kopp saw a need for changing the infrastructure of education and used her leadership abilities to create a movement that will one day fulfill its’ mission that “every student will have the opportunity to achieve an excellent education” (


- Do you think Wendy Kopp is a leader based on trait theory or is it the educational situation at the time that caused her to emerge as a leader?

-Is Kopp successful because of her female perspective on leadership? Are the qualities Bass and Avolio listed as a woman leader in their article what makes Teach For America such a powerful organization?

-Besides charisma, goal setting and motivation, what qualities would a leader need to move a senior thesis to a national education movement in America?

Teach For America website.

I was a 2008 Teach For America Corps member and had the opportunity to teach Kindergarten in Charlotte, NC. Permission for photo was received August 2008.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

“The Transformational Leadership” vs. “The Transactional

: The case of President Obama's Pursuit of Leadership on the Mosque Issue in New York.:
On Friday, August 13, President Obama delivered a strong defense of a proposed Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero in Manhattan. Speaking at dinner celebrating Ramadan, known as an iftar, at the White House, President Obama said the following:

“As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.” (“Obama Strongly Backs Islam Center,” 2010)

Regardless of President Obama’s intention, the debate concerning his support of the right to build a Muslim Community Center in New York became a heated controversy and spread throughout the country and over the world. However, I do not want to deal with this issue from the viewpoint of politics, such as the President’s strategy for the next election, or economics, such as the economic influence of building the mosque near ground zero. Instead, I want to approach this issue only from the perspective of “the leadership”: “the transformational leadership” and “the transactional leadership”, and share creative and various thoughts about it.

First, I believe President Obama’s remark about the religious right of Muslims came from his value that Men are all equal before the law and people should be treated without discrimination. This leadership style based, on moral justification, was named “the transformational leadership” by leadership theorist Burns.

“Leaders can also shape and alter and elevate the motives and values and goals of followers through the vital teaching role of leadership. This is transforming leadership. The premise of this leadership is that, whatever the separate interests persons might hold, they are presently or potentially united in the pursuit of “higher” goals, the realization of which is tested by the achievement of significant change that represents the collective or pooled interests of leaders and followers. Transformational leadership is more concerned with end-values, such as liberty, justice, equality. Transforming leaders “raise” their followers up through levels of morality, through insufficient attention to means can corrupt the ends.” (Burns, McGregor. J., 1978)

If we assume that leadership must not only meet the needs of followers but also must elevate them, we render a different judgment (Heifitz, 1998). If the stereotype regarding all Islamic people as terrorists and the Mosque as the terrorist’s advance base is not a reasonable notion, the leadership that elevates people to have a sense of common good for the United States, instead of adhering to a claptrap policy, is necessary in order to lead people to the right direction.

Second, through President Obama’s other remarks about the issue, we can discover another aspect of his leadership. The day after making his initial remarks, he hedged even further, “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there.” Although this remark may be translated just as a politician’s political sail-trimming (Weisberg, J., 2010), I also regarded this is an aspect of his leadership. Historically, it is hard to find a so-called “successful leader” who achieved great work sticking to only one particular leadership style. This kind of leadership style, which considers various needs from followers or society, was named “the transactional leadersip” by leadership theorist, Selznick.

“Leadership is a kind of work done to meet the needs of a social situation. Possibly there are some individuals more likely to be leaders than others, possessed of distinguishing personal traits or capacities. Whether or not this is so, we shall here be concerned with leadership as a specialized form of activity, a kind of work or function. Identifying what leaders do certainly bears on (and is perhaps indispensable to) the discovery of requisite personal attributes; but the questions are of a different kind and may be treated separately.” (Selznick, P., 1975.)

On the other hand, public polling shows the various needs of the social situation well. On Sep. 2, seventy-two percent of poll respondents said building the facility so close to the World Trade Center site was inappropriate, while 22 percent said it was appropriate. Nevertheless, the same poll indicated most Americans - 67 percent - said they thought the developers do have a right to build a mosque near Ground Zero, while 29 percent say they do not. (“Poll: Most Say “Gound Zero Mosque” Is Inappropriate,” 2010) As you see, it is very difficult to even define what the social needs are in order to pursue the transactional leadership with real issues.

About this case, do you think that President Obama should have asserted his own principles more strongly in the perspective of the transformational leadership, or that President Obama should have considered more deeply people’s feelings and the social situation after Sept. 11, 2001, in the perspective of the transactional leadership? Or, do you have a totally different perspective about his leadership in this issue? I do not want to talk about political solution of this issue, but I just hope we can think about the application of many scholar’s various leadership theories into the current situation and deeply understand what the essence of the leadership, which theorists have been researching for a long time, is.


Burns, James McGregor, “Toward A General Theory,” pp. 425-443. Leadership. NY: Harper & Row. 1978.

Heifitz, R., “Values in Leadership,” pp.13-27. Leadership Without Easy Answers. Boston: Belknap Press/ Harvard University Press. 1998.

Selznick, P. “Some Premises about Leadership,” pp.22-28. Leadership in Administration. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1975.)

Stolberg, S. G. (2010, August 14). Obama Strongly Backs Islam Center. The New York Times. Retrieved from =politics

Sundby, A. (2010, August 25). Poll: Most Say “Gound Zero Mosque” Is Inappropriate. CBS News. Retrieved from

Weisberg, J., (2010, September 13). Obama’s Moral Cowardice: The president needs to find his principles. Newsweek, 19.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


My husband and I went to dinner this evening with a friend. His name is Baikita. He is from Chad, Africa. Baikita is a Humphrey Fellow at Vanderbilt studying Education Policy. He wants to make a positive change to the education system in Chad. Baikita exemplifies leadership in many ways.

“The first thing that strikes one as characteristic of contemporary leadership is the necessity for the leader to work with and through extremely complex organizations and institutions” (Gardner, 1990). Baitkita is working with a very complex organization! Chad’s education system is held back in the sense that it has been destroyed time and time again. Not to go without mentioning, Chad is one of the poorest nations in Central Africa. Chad has tried to rebuild their education system, but French rule determines funding, resources and curriculum (Chad, 2010). This makes improving schools very difficult because Chadian people do not have influence on how their education system is managed. Baikita plans to meet with high-level government authorities in hopes of influencing their opinions on education and persuading them to make changes in the curriculum.

Second, Baikita is a servant. De Pree says, “Above all, leadership is a position of servanthood” (De Pree, 1992). Baikita wants nothing more in life than to serve the people in his home country. He is living in Nashville until June learning about the American education system. Baikita plans to implement aspects of the American school system in Chad. He is sacrificing time away from his wife and children because this is the route he believes will help him institute change most effectively.

Third, Baikita is creating change, an aspect of leadership Gardner cites (Gardner, 1990). Baikita is working to create change for the good of his country. He is selfless and doing it for the greater good. One change Baikita is working towards is equal opportunity for girls and boys to attend school. The belief among many Chadian’s is that boys attend school; females work in the home. This has been a cultural belief for many years. Baikita disagrees with this and is teaching others the benefits of young girls becoming educated.

Lastly, Baikita is assembling people to help him reach his goal. When he returns to Chad, he will meet with several individuals convincing them to realize the changes that need to be made in Chad’s school systems. “Leadership is the reciprocal process of mobilizing, by persons with certain motives and values, various economic, political, and other resources, in a context of competition and conflict, in order to realize goals independently or mutually held by both leaders and followers” (Burns, 1978).

Baikita is in every aspect a leader. He has not only given me an extremely positive example of leadership, but he is showing me what kind of leader I hope to become – one who tackles extreme obstacles head on, a servant to others, one who creates positive change, and an individual who can rally those around them for a noble cause. Baikita is a selfless individual who is courageous, yet vulnerable at times. With leaders like Baikita, positive change will be created and have a lasting effect.

“Chad – Educational System Overview.” (2010) Chad - Educational System—overview

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Groupthink: The American Way?

After reading the article by Irving L. Janis on the groupthink phenomena I began to think about the decisions made in this country both big and small. Groupthink has, without question, been a large part of the decision making of our country for a long time. Look back to the birth of the United States for example. A group of rebellious statesmen came together to create and sign a declaration of independence that represented thirteen colonies and thousands of people. In this case the end result was positive, but it created one of the bloodiest and most difficult times in American history.
The reality is groupthink is one of the ways by which many of our most important decisions are made. No matter what political party our president may fall under; they surround themselves with like-minded advisors and cabinet members. These advisors can be of little to no help in certain situations. In the article written by Janis he describes Kennedy's decision makers during the Bay of Pigs fiasco as, "the greatest array of intellectual talent in the history of American Government" (Janis, 1971). This amass of talent did not stop them from becoming victims of groupthink and making poor choices. The concern of the group to conform to leadership created a fatal flaw in group decision making.
The most recent examples of groupthink that our leadership has presented is the decision of the Bush administration to extend their war campaign into Iraq. This in order to, in Bush's words, "disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people" (From Bush's radio address before the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom). Many were opposed to this, but the republican advisors that Bush had placed under him saw no reason why this was not an appropriate step in their agenda. Their group saw this as a necessary advancement and the group conformed to the social expectations of the party. Even the Obama administration may be falling victim to groupthink within this conflict. In the most recent declarations out of White House the administration is claiming an end to the Iraq War. In this situation the administration might be declaring an end too soon. Iraq is still in a great deal of political turmoil, but Obama has promises to keep. He also has a party and an advisory that is committed to ending what Bush began no matter what.
I believe that our American Government has been set up beautifully for groupthink mentality. Our government is split sharply in to two main parties with very different viewpoints. Our social norms push for conformity, and contradiction is put in such a negative light that we avoid it with all costs. In many cases our opinions that go against the group are held back, because we fear confrontation. We fear the potential to be viewed as an outsider. This type of decision making has shown that it can have very poor consequences for our country. Many of the mistakes our leadership has made from the Bay of Pigs to Iraq can be attributed to the groupthink phenomena. Groupthink is an important issue that our countries leadership is facing. Our system of leadership and decision making may very well be flawed.

My questions are these:
-Is groupthink a flaw of our leadership that can be fixed? Should it?
-What will it take for our leadership to overcome groupthink mentality and our push for group conformity?
-Is Obama's administration falling victim to groupthink in their recent declarations?
-What other examples can you think of where our leadership has fallen victim to a groupthink mentality?

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed considering the points I brought up, and I look forward to discussing them further.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Servant Leadership at Starbucks

The most impressing statement in articles I have read was De Pree’s (1992) “Above all, leadership is a position of servanthood.” This one word ‘servanthood’ explains what a leader is; a servant. Because leaders are not people who just order or dictate employers, punish or award performance. Otherwise the term ‘manager’ would be more appropriate when defining that kind of people. Leadership heavily involves building relationships, understanding beneficiaries’ (personnel, board, customers etc.) needs, feelings, emotions and values. Because, in order to serve people, just understanding these features is not enough. A leader should possess empathy that is the ability to share another person's feelings and emotions as if they were his/her own. As Pagonis (2001) implies “No one is a leader who can’t put himself or herself in the other person’s shoes” empathy is an essential feature for leadership. Zaleznik (1997) also clarifies it saying that “Empathy is not simply a matter of paying attention to other people”.

This is not a new idea. The Holy Bible tells us that Christ showed a good example of servant leadership saying that “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet” (John 13:14), and also remember that George Washington signed his letters; "Your most humble and obedient servant."

There are some business stories which show us that leaders who care their employees’ benefits exist. The story of Starbucks is one of the good examples of servant leadership. Howard Behar, the former president of Starbucks Coffee Company North America and Starbucks Coffee International, tells the leadership style at Starbucks in his book: It's Not About The Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks (2007). Lichtenwalner (2009) briefly summarizes this example:

Howard Behar and Dave Olsen spoke of many challenges they faced during the rapid expansion of Starbucks. However, in spite of many challenges, they never lost sight of their values. For example, although there was often pressure to reduce their prices, the company needed these prices to maintain commitments to their partners. The prices for Starbuck’s products ensured their ability to provide the same health insurance to anyone working 20 hours or more a week that they provided to the CEO. As Mr. Behar said, “people forget what’s in that cup of coffee”, cheaper cups of coffee elsewhere may not contain those same benefits for the person serving the coffee. But this is nothing compared to the challenge they faced while dealing with a tragedy in 1997.

Behar shared the story of when three Starbucks employees were murdered in DC during a botched robbery. The event clearly still touched him deeply. He explained how Howard Schultz, CEO, did not call Public Relations or legal counsel. Instead, Schultz dropped everything, flew to the store and spent the entire week visiting with the families and employees in the area. As Dave Olsen, Senior Vice President of Culture and Leadership Development said, leadership is “largely about having courage to do the right thing”. Or, as Behar said, “Leading with compassion never stops…there’s no time off”.

Measurable Success from Servant Leadership in Troubled Times:

While other food services companies experience turnover in the 200% to 400% range annually, Starbucks sees only about 65% at the high end (lower for certain positions). The company touts many achievements including Best Companies to Work For, Best Corporate Citizens, Most Admired Companies and Most Ethical Companies awards. All this from an organization with over $10 Billion in sales annually.

Furthermore, Howard Schultz, chairman and chief global strategist of Starbucks Coffee, briefly summarizes his servant leadership perspective (Stafford, 2004):

“We have to lead with our hearts. In business, as in life, we each should have an internal compass that guides our decisions, an instinctive understanding of what matters most in this world. For me, it’s not profits, or sales, or number of stores, but the passion, commitment, and enthusiasm of a dedicated group of people.”

Finally, I have found this positive example important, for it shows the relation between leadership and servanthood. Serving well creates a chain reaction. A leader serves the employees, then they increase their commitment and quality of the job, so they can serve customers well, customers enjoy the service and value the company, so both the reputation and profits of the company soar.

I hope you enjoyed this first post of the semester. Thanks for reading.

Further reading


Robert K. Greenleaf, Larry C. Spears. (1977). Servant Leadership: a journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. Paulist Press. Can be previewed online at

Melrose, Ken. (1995). Making The Grass Greener On Your Side: a CEO's journey to leading by serving. Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc. Can be previewed online at


The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership. Website at:

The Modern Servant Leader. Website at:


De Pree, Max. (1992). “The Attributes of Leadership: A Checklist,” pp. 218-226. Leadership Jazz. NY: Dell.

Pagonis, William G. (2001). “Leadership in a Combat Zone,” HBR.

Zaleznik, Abraham. (May-Jun 1977). “Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?” HBR 55:3, 67-79.

Behar, Howard. (2007). It's Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks. Portfolio Hardcover Publishing. ISBN: 1591841925 website at:

Lichtenwalner, Benjamin. (2009). 5 Examples of Leadership Success in Troubled Times. Retrieved from:,2

Stafford, Mike. (2004). Starbucks Servant-Leaders Pour Their Hearts Into It. The Servant Leader Newsletter. Retrieved from: