Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity

This past weekend, hundreds of thousands of people attended Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, D.C. Though Jon Stewart kept the reason behind this rally purposefully vague, it was well known that it was a response to Glenn Beck’s earlier rally. Jon Stewart targeted a certain group of people for this rally, and as is described on its website, the rally was designed for “people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard…Are you one of those people? Excellent. Then we’d like you to join us in Washington, DC on October 30 — a date of no significance whatsoever — at the Daily Show’s ‘Rally to Restore Sanity.’'

This could be described as a visionary event, but what exactly was the vision? Those who attended the rally might think of Jon Stewart as a visionary leader, but what vision was he trying to convey. According to Sashkin, there are three main aspects to visionary leadership. The first two include constructing a vision for an organization and its culture, and developing programs and practices that put this vision into practice. “The third aspect centers on the leader’s own practices, the specific actions in which leaders engage on a one-to-one basis in order to create and support their visions.” (403) Jon Stewart clearly had a vision for his rally, but how well did he communicate it. He engaged with his viewers and followers to support his vision, but it is not clear that this event conveyed visionary leadership. At the end of his rally, Stewart closed with some poignant thoughts. He said, “The country's 24-hour, political pundit, perpetual, panic conflict-inator did not cause our problems. But its existence makes solving them that much harder. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.” He connected with his audience by concluding, “Sanity has always been in the eye of the beholder. And to see you here today, and the kind of people that you are, has restored mine”

If Jon Stewart did not display visionary leadership, was he just using referent power? Referent power occurs when a leader does not have expertise and he therefore builds strong ties with subordinates. “Referent power refers to the potential influence once has due to the strength of the relationship between the leader and the followers.” (Hughes, Ginnett, Curphy, 341) This rally clearly attracted followers, and they felt a strong connection to Stewart and his words. His referent power could also be a consequence of his charisma. At his rally, Stewart portrayed Choi’s three core components of charismatic leadership: envisioning, empathy, and empowering. (25) Stewart’s connection to his audience allows him to be a leader to them through these features.

It is important to understand the roles of commentators like Jon Stewart because of the impact they have on society. If people look to them for news, guidance, or even just laughs, it puts them in a position of power. Whatever one personally thinks of Jon Stewart and his show, it is important to understand what drew more than 200,000 people to see what he had to say.

So what do you think? Do you think Jon Stewart has power, and if yes, does that translate to leadership? Is Jon Stewart visionary, or just really charismatic? Do you trust him more than politicians? Do you think his work matters?

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Misfits and Castoffs Lead Giants to World Series Title

Brian Sabean and Bruce Boochy

This past Monday, the San Francisco Giants won their first World Series since 1954. The 2010 Giants were able to accomplish something that Barry Bonds and Willy McCovey failed to do during their illustrious Hall of Fame careers; win a World Series Title. Even though their roster lacked the superstar talent displayed by playoff teams such as the Yankees and Phillies, the Giants were able to overcome their perceived lack of talent and become baseball’s metaphorical Cinderella. Not to pass judgment on the careers of several of the Giants players during their miraculous post season run, but for the most part, the roster was comprised of spare parts. In fact, manager Bruce Boochy even referred to his roster as a group of “misfits and castoffs”. This statement by Boochy became a rallying cry for the team during their postseason run. Perhaps, this illustrates Boochy’s talents as a communicator since he was able to motivate his team thru quotes such as this. We learned from Hackman and Johnson that “leadership is human communication which modifies the attitudes and behaviors of others in order to meet group goals and needs” (p. 428). Thus, Boochy can be seen as a skilled communicator and leader by establishing a rallying cry for his team and knowing what to say at the right time.

Starting center fielder Andres Torres spent the majority of his career floating around in the minor leagues. World Series MVP, Edgar Renteria, who played the entire World Series with a torn bicep tendon, and only played in one game in the last two weeks of the regular season, has bounced between five teams since 2004. Starting left fielder, Pat Burrell was added to the team in June after he was released from the Tampa Bay Rays. Aubrey Huff was a free agent addition this past winter. Infielder, Mike Fontenot was acquired from the Cubs in an August trade. Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez, who were both contributors in the Giants bullpen, were acquired at the trade deadline. Cody Ross was a waiver-wire addition in August after being placed on waivers by the Marlins. He went on to star in the post-season with several majestic home runs in their division series win over the Braves and championship series win over the Phillies. Rookie left-hander, Madison Baumgardner, who pitched eight scoreless innings in Game 4 of the World Series, only recently turned 21 years old and starting catcher Buster Posey was playing shortstop at Florida State in 2007.

Taking into consideration this hodgepodge of characters, I think it is important to exam how this group was able to overcome all obstacles and capture the World Series. What leadership lessons can be learned from the 2010 Giants? My answer is several.

First, and foremost, the team leadership structure has been in place for years. Starting with General Manager, Brian Sabean, who just finished his 14th season at the helm of the club. I feel that the stability he brings to the club is immeasurable. Everyone in the organization knows and understands the high standards in which he sets, and this allows for things to move very smoothly. Thus, I believe, that Sabean’s experience served as a calming force within the organization. Players and coaches alike respected Sabean not only for his experience, but he had proven his worth as a talent evaluator in having drafted and developed the Giants four playoff starting pitchers: Tim Linceum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Madison Baumgardner. Hence, because of his reputation as a talent evaluator, members of the organization trusted Sabean every time he brought in a new player into the fold. Furthermore, his roster moves over the course of the season demonstrated the ability of team leadership to “respond quickly…rapidly develop new products…tapping the tacit and often highly subjective insights, intuitions, and hunches of individual employees and making those insights available for testing and use by the company as a whole” (Nonaka, 2000). Sabean and other members of the team’s leadership displayed their willingness to roll the dice and take chances on players that others didn’t want.

Time and time again, the Giants leadership acted as the princess who would kiss the frog and transform it into the prince. Simply put, no one else wanted several of these players, yet the Giants had the insight that this group could win games. Sabean’s visionary leadership shows in his idea to build a team around an offense of veteran players with playoff experience, and a group of young pitchers drafted and developed by the team. Team sources who I have spoken to in the past year, have mentioned to me that this was Sabean’s plan for returning to the Giants to the World Series that he came up with a few years ago. Thus, he exemplifies Sashkin’s visionary leadership by expressing a vision, explaining a vision, and extending a vision.

The Giants assembled a diverse group of employees that worked together in striving for a common goal. “Their personalities work well together. They respect the game, they respect each other. It’s like the United Nations in there, a clash of cultures. But they know what to do when the game starts” (Sabean, 2010). In summary, when examining the 2010 Giants, we see how the communication and visionary skills of team leadership, good chemistry and teamwork, a unified desire to reach goals, and a diverse yet talented group of employees were the winning recipe that help lead a group of misfits to the World Series.

Abraham, P. (2010). Gm Sabean Proves to be an Adroit Architect. Boston Globe, Retrieved from