Valuing Servant-hood for Today’s Leaders

handshakes-business

When I was growing up, my mother was the youth director of our church.  In elementary school, there are pressures about being cool.  I was an active church member (and yes, a choir boy in the literal sense).

My mother expected her children to be the model young person, which involved participating in church required activities.  For me, that meant participating in morning worship where the youth were required to lead devotion periodically. A call for volunteers would go out to the youth.  Of course, most of my peers felt comfortable rejecting those requests to participate. Continue reading

Value Modeling

justice-symbol

Last week, we started the discussion about socio-technical systems and its impact on today’s organizations.   In the next few weeks, we will address three practical applications (i.e. value modeling, technology relevancy, and human factor buy-in).  Understanding value modeling is a critical attribute that managers need to acquire in times of uncertainty and high risks.  Effective leadership becomes the hallmark of high performing organizations. 

Organizations must model its values to both first-line supervisors and managers in a socio-technical system.  However, it won’t happen without good leadership.  Leadership is defined as the ability to influence others toward a shared objective or goal. 

Dr. Richard Daft explains that today’s employers are looking for authentic leaders who understand them, act consistent with high ethical standards, and empowers others with their openness and candor.  Dr. Daft argues, “To be authentic means being real, staying true to one’s values and beliefs, and acting based on one’s true self rather than emulating what others do.”

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2SKTP43oRQ

Yet, some organizations expect employees to understand its culture, its values, and its principles by attending new employee orientation or by reading a company brochure. This is simply not the case. Vince Adams, who has over 20 years as an environmental manager, understands delicacy of balancing a socio-technical system.

Adams has extensive experiences with both government and private organizations that are finding themselves neglecting to outline and demonstrate its value systems to employees.[1] Adams states, “Companies must build values into their employees so that employees know what the expectations are for that organization.”

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, have researched several thousand businesses and government executives and they outline setting the example as a critical attribute of an effective leadership.[2] Kouzes and Posner argue, “Once people are clear about the leader’s values, about their own values, and about shared values, they know what’s expected of them and can better handle the conflicting demands of work and personal affairs.”  Therefore, employees expect leaders in organizations to model these values in their organizations, and this is also true for socio-technical systems. 

Discuss the concept of value modeling for today’s leaders. 

© 2013 by Daryl D. Green                                    

 


[1]“Leading others while supporting organizational values” by Daryl D. Green

[2] The Leadership Challenge by James Kouzes and Barry Posner

 

Making a Special Connection with Followers

 

Immediately after the first 2012 Republican Presidential Debate in Florida, Former Governor Mitt Rommey released his 2010 tax statement. However, Rommey’s wealth did surprise most people.  Some individuals probably harbored class envy of him. Yet, I was also amazed at the other presidential candidates’ great fortunes in comparison to most Americans. Let’s go deeper. 

 How can leaders build a connection with their followers who are well below them economically?  For example, GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney isn’t just in the top 1% of America’s highest income earners; he is at least at the top .0006% based on his 2010 tax returns.  According to AP reporter Connie Cass, adding up the wealth of the last eight presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama wouldn’t  equal Rommey’s wealth.  It’s also about perspective.  Among the ultra-wealthy in the world, Rommey is not among the rich elite.  Yet, this discussion is very interesting since the U.S. President is seen as a representative of all citizens.

Here’s a look at some of the 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates’ worth: Mitt Rommey’s worth $85-264 million, Jon Huntsman’s $16-72 million; Newt Gingrich’s $7-31 million; Ron Paul’s $2.4 – 5.4 million, Rick Santorum’s $1-3 million, and Rick Perry’s $1-2.5 million.  Even President Barack Obama, a member of the Democratic Party, is not far behind with a net worth of $2.8-11.8 million.  One of the greatest assets of effective leaders is making a connection with followers. 

Great wealth may be problematic to many people who want to show they understand the common man.  However, this isn’t always the case.  For example, some former U.S. Presidents with great wealth made a connection with followers such as Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.  Leaders want to have good followers championing their cause.  Presidential candidates are no exceptions.  Rommey, like most wealth people, may have some connection problems.   Many people undermine the importance of followership. They shouldn’t.

Followership is underrated. Yet, effective leaders can’t afford to not have stellar followership.  Followership can be defined as ‘the ability to effectively follow the directives and support the efforts of a leader to maximize a structured organization.’  Kent Bjugstad, Comcast Spotlight, Elizabeth Thach, Karen Thompson, and Alan Morris, followership experts, outlined the problems associated with followership: “The assumption that good followership is simply doing what one is told, and that effective task accomplishment is the result of good leadership, doesn’t amplify the merits of the follower role.”  Therefore, leaders cannot afford to underestimate this concept.

Connecting with followers is vital.  Rommey, like other leaders, must bridge this gap.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the typical household worth is approximately $120,300.  That means Rommey is 1,000 times richer than most American citizens. Fred Fiedler, a leadership researcher, noted that a leader’s personality can determine how he or she will be an effective leader.

Gareth Jones and Jennifer George, authors of Contemporary Management, further noted the critical needs for effective leader-follower relationships: “Situations are more favorable for leading when leader-member relations are good.”   Therefore, connecting with followers is an important goal for most leaders.

Discuss how leaders effectively connect with their followers.

© 2012 by Daryl D. Green                                    

 

Leading in a Volatile Society

 

The question of effective leadership continues to plaque modern society.  This month, the captain of a cruise ship that capsized off the coast of Italy has received public scrutiny.  The cruise ship, Costa Concordia, had more than 4,200 people aboard when it hit a reef off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

Panic filled the ship; cruise workers appeared unprepared for the emergency. Yet, the biggest casualty was leadership.  Captain Francesco Schettino is accused of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck, and abandoning his vessel during its ground. 

Tapes were released of a conversation between the cruise captain and a coast guard officer who demanded the captain return to the ship: “What are you doing? Are you abandoning the rescue…Get back on board now (expletive) sake!”  What has been abandoned globally is the lack of effective leadership in a volatile society.

Today’s workers exist in a volatile world. According to the Forrester Research, approximately 3.3 million jobs and $136 billion in wages could be moved overseas to countries like India or China by 2015. In fact, many developing countries are projected to continue to grow strongly over the next decade.

Furthermore, these countries steadily shift to consumer-led growth instead of export-led growth.  The dollar spiral downward and foreign currency goes upward.  China and India have added millions to their labor force creating products as well as outsourcing their services abroad at a fraction of what American workers can provide. 

These upstart countries are positioning themselves to become the next Super Power.  The middle class hold their breath as the threat of more job cuts become a reality, thereby further eroding their quality of life. Yet, business executives express little moral remorse as they keep American workers at bay.   

There needs to be a different type of leadership in a volatile world. Today’s hypercompetitive environment needs high performance organizations to sustain market success. Yet, many organizations operate from the same business structure from the Industrial Revolution.

In this setting, managers oversee workers to control their performance due to the fact that managers believe workers are inferior and have no passion to work. Yet, most workers are willing to work if they are placed in a position to be successful and there are shared rewards.

Yet, I have heard too many complaints about bad bosses and uncaring organizations. There are too many managers and organizations that do not value the importance of their employees.

These same managers are great at distributing tasks but are unsuccessful at motivating their own workers.  Therefore, future leaders will need to be able to navigate global markets while inspiring their workers.

What characteristics are needed for today’s leaders in a volatile environment?

 © 2012 by Daryl D. Green

The Designful Leader

Last night I was reviewing the Design School Boot Camp Bootleg, an interesting document put out by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. In the opening of the 36-page PDF is the “Design Mindset” or “D. Mindset” (supposedly because everything looks cooler when you shorten a word to one letter and add a period). As I read them again, I started to wonder if they couldn’t also apply to leaders. The D. Mindsets are as follows, with my leadership commentary below:

Show, don’t tell

We all know how frustrating it is to receive “orders” from a leader who is solely focused don telling, especially if what we need is to see the action, behavior of value from the leader first before engaging in it ourselves.

Create Clarity from Complexity

Much of the role of leadership is sense-making, reducing the complex system they view to a tangible action or behavior that followers need to understand. Leaders make sense.

Be Mindful of Process

While making sense of complexity for followers, leaders also have to juggle their attention on the overall process of their objective. In addition, leaders need to know that their development and the development of their followers is a process.

Collaborate across boundaries

In most organizations, the leaders who get things done are often those who step outside the lines of hierarchy to do so. Collaboration is becoming increasingly more vital…and that doesn’t even consider the effects of globalization.

Take Bias toward actions

In the end, leaders influence others toward action. Leaders who can get to that action the quickest (with sufficient background knowledge) are of distinct advantage.

Get experimental, and experiential

As the literature on innovation grows, our understanding of the need to experiment grows with it. Leaders need to let followers experiment, and experiment themselves. In addition, leaders ought to consider the experience of what it is like to work on their team and build a positive experience.

Focus on human values

I’d love to think this one is obvious, but many “tactical” or “transactional” leaders are focused on accomplishing the objective first and appealing to human values second. While this may work in the short-term, it is not sustainable.

Seven mindsets billed as required for engaging in proper design. Still, I can’t help but wonder if they ought to be re-billed as the “L. Mindsets.

Please provide comments or feedback to our guest blogger.

David Burkus is the editor of LeaderLab, a community of resources dedicated to promoting the practice of leadership theory. He is a consultant, a speaker and an adjunct professor of business at several universities. David focuses on developing leaders putting leadership and organizational theory into practice.

David is a graduate of Oral Roberts University and holds a Master of Arts in Organizational Dynamics from the University of Oklahoma. David is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Strategic Leadership from Regent University. He can be reached at david@davidburkus.com.

Visionary Sustainability

Steve Jobs, Apple’s Founder and Legendary Innovator, announced he would resign from his CEO post several weeks ago.  Jobs co-founded Apple in 1976.  Many people would consider Jobs a visionary leader. Tim Cook, who had been Apple’s chief operating officer, was named acting CEO.

Cook is quite familiar with this position. Since January, Cook has been acting CEO due to Jobs’ medical leave.  Jobs’ absence for the company could mean more financial trouble for Apple.  To shareholders and investors, it’s déjà all over again.  Jobs has been battling a series of illnesses (i.e. battling cancer, a liver transplant, etc.) that have forced him to take medical leave three times in seven years. 

A good vision, clearly communicated, can propel an organization into high performance. In fact, a well constructed vision has several advantages, including (a) it captures senior executives own views about the long-term direction of the organization, (b) it reduces the risk of careless decision making by managers at all levels, (c) it builds support from employees at all levels and help convey a shared vision, and (d) it helps an organization prepare for the future. 

John Gamble and Arthur Thompson, authors of Essentials of Strategic Management, argue the staying power of a good vision: “An engaging and convincing strategic vision has enormous motivational value – for the same reason that a stone mason is inspired by building a great cathedral for the ages.”

Who will be the next master mason for Apple?  Jobs had to come out of retirement in 1997 (a 12 year hiatus) before to rescue the struggling company. With Jobs at the helm, Apple began making its creative presences heard with iPhones, iPads, and iPads.  

In fact, what separated Jobs from the rest of the CEO pact was his keen strategic mind and vision. Columnist Margaret Heffernan noted the shear persona of  visionary leadership: “It was because, at the beginning of the century, Jobs had put in place a product plan aimed at one great external future event: the moment that broadband penetration in the U.S. exceeded 50%. Once that occurred, digital entertainment became technically and commercially feasible.”  Many will predict the demise of Apple once Jobs is finally gone. 

Why? Steve Jobs is Apple.  Cross Research analyst Shannon Cross observed about Jobs’ impact on Apple, “Steve Jobs put in place at Apple a culture of innovation.”  Yet, many organizations will find themselves in a similar situation when their visionary founder is no longer a part of the organization.

How does an organization sustain a solid vision when the founding or inspirational figure is no longer communicating that vision to the organization?

© 2011 by Daryl D. Green                                    


Will America Survive Global Changes?

 Being on vacation is a wonderful invention for humanity. Over the break from the daily grind, I went with my family to Navarre, Florida.  It was quiet and surreal.  I enjoyed walking the white sands in tranquility.  Yet, the Gulf environment also provided contradictory outlooks.

Once the water was clear as a mirror, now it was clouded by dead seaweed on shore. One boy celebrated finding a dead fish washed to shore.
I wondered what impact the oil spill had on the pristine environment.  The beaches showed evidence of commercialization as I saw trash (i.e. beer bottles, wrappers, etc.) abandoned on the beaches.  It made me wonder if the ocean was dead.

Can anything be sustained over time? Leaders falter across the globe, from the biggest to the smallest countries.  This month, world policy makers were unable to agree on fixes for their economy which sent investors on a wild ride for several weeks. Debts in Europe and the U.S. raise the question about the ability of political leaders to control ‘the trans-Atlanta panic.’ America’s on the blink?

 

President Bush is notified of the September 11th Attacks.

In August, business empires were shaken.  For example, two industry leaders (Microsoft and Wal-Mart) struggle to sustain growth. On August
12, 2011, the two companies were added to the Dow Jones U.S. Contrarian Opportunities Index, which tracks stocks that “lag behind the broader market in
terms of recent performance, but outrank their peers based on fundamental and other qualitative criteria.

Yet, American businesses outsource abroad in order to impress investors and shareholders.  Corporate executives silently mock politicians, who desire them to pursue a business strategy of ‘creating jobs’ rather than an innate strategy of profitability.

U.S. political leaders, unable to break the ideology divide, lead financial investors on a wild goose chase with their indecision and create anxious and cynical citizens worried if they will be able to survive in the future.

Given these patterns of disruptive change, today’s institutions need strategic leaders with a clear view of sustaining success.  Over the next several months, I will focus on strategic leadership and sustainability concepts in order to assist the next generation of leaders obtain the necessary attributes to overcome unknown circumstances.

Andres Edwards, author of The Sustainability Revolution, views sustainability consisting of key components, ecology/environment,
economy/employment, equity/equality, and education. He notes, “Success requires an understanding of the complex forces at work, a vision of the future and a strategy for making the vision a reality.

How are the concepts of traditional leadership at odds with the concept of sustainability as it relates ecology/environment, economy/employment, equity/equality, and education?

© 2011 by Daryl
D. Green

 

Guest Blogger – Mirror or Window Leadership?

It seems that some leaders just think about themselves. Maybe you’ve experienced a leader who seemed to care very little about you; his or her behavior was inconvenient, annoying, unprofessional or even unethical. Think about this: Who was that leader serving? The person in the mirror, or someone else?

When you go through a typical day, is your personal leadership like looking in a mirror all day—constantly concerned with yourself, looking out for your best interest above others’? Or, are you looking out a “window” to focus on others? Does your personal leadership keep bringing you back to self-preservation and self-promotion? Or, does it help you think about ways to address others’ needs and concerns?    

I think you know where I’m going with this! The best leaders are “window” leaders. Their eyes are consistently looking outward to others, caring for them and serving them. As leadership expert Max de Pree said, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.”

Be others-focused rather than self-focused, and you can experience the synergy of people working together well, united in purpose, and producing great results. Dean, professor, and professional leadership consultant Bruce Winston put it this way: “Employees and followers want leaders who are ‘others-centered’.” He goes on to explain that the paradox of this approach to leadership is that while the leader “…concentrates less on the organization and more on individuals, the organization gains more because the employees are working to uphold the organization’s needs.”

So you see, an others-focused practice of leadership can also yield greater return on investment for a business—it can reap monetary rewards. Simply put, when people are treated well they work more effectively. However, it must be intentional on the part of the leader. Remember the famous John Donne quote, “No man is an island”? This succinctly communicates our need for one another and especially the idea of connection to each other. “Window” leaders understand this vital connection. It is only by stepping away from our mirrors and turning to look outward to others that we begin to make connections to people around us and begin to reap the benefit of meaningful relationships.

Consider the profound urging of William Penn’s words: “I expect to pass through life but once.  If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”  Turn from the mirror to take in the magnificent view outside. Be a “window” leader!

Please provide your insight on this topic.

Renée N. Hale, DSL is an Organizational Performance Catalyst, with over 25 years experience in guiding individuals and teams, leading seminars, workshops, individual mentoring, and on the job training experiences.  She is a former professional violinist, and also served for 15 years as an international representative for a non-profit organization in Africa. Renée works fluently in French, and facilitates cross-cultural leadership learning. Dr. Hale’s broad worldview offers distinctive insights, innovative applications, and the capacity to see, understand and apply significant conceptual connections.

Dr. Renée N. Hale is also founder and president of WellSpirit Consulting Group, Inc.—engaging organizations around the world to get well, stay well, and create positive futures. Visit www.wellspiritconsulting.com  today.  © 2011 Renée N. Hale

Guest Blogger: The Leadership Theory Lack

Airport bookstores are crowded with books on leadership, and each one seems to promote a “leadership lack.” They’ll each begin with phrases like “The most pressing issue in organizations is that leaders lack integrity…or empathy…or strategy…or even humor. These books continue by laying out the author’s simple framework for developing the perfect leader. On and on the dialogue goes to the point where readers become be confused because the 21 Unassailable Edicts of Leadership are different than the Seven Routines of Really Efficient Leaders.  It would be a poor move to add to this confusion. With this in mind, we will admit that we do not believe our “leadership lack” to be the most pressing issue in organizations, just the easiest to fix.

Leaders lack an understanding of leadership theory.

These airport leadership books provide decent advice that is easily digestible. And because it is easily digestible, leaders continue to gorge themselves on it until there is very little room left for real, solid theory. Most see theory as complex and hard to digest. When leaders think about leadership or organizational theory, they think back to the 400+ page textbook they had to buy in business school. “Seems like quite an undertaking,” leaders think. So they cheerfully hand their money to the cashier and board the plane with the latest, pocket-sized “leadership” book.

Leaders lack an understanding of leadership theory because it isn’t presented in pocket-sized form.

But leadership theory isn’t some kind of rocket surgery. Attaining a true understanding of theory isn’t difficult, if it’s presented right. We’ll survey the major leadership theories. Our intent is to present them in the same easily digestible, pocket-sized form as the airport bestsellers.

Why Theory?

During WWII, Allied bomber losses were high, so high that the British Air Ministry undertook a rigorous analysis in hopes of finding a solution. Their engineers set out to eyeball every bomber they could, gathering data on each bullet hole. After analyzing the results, engineers decided to reinforce the areas that had the highest concentrations of holes with armor plating.

It didn’t work.

Perplexed, the engineers assumed that the extra plating had made the planes too heavy, and that the difficulty in handling the planes was offsetting the protection of the armor plating.

Enter Abraham Wald.

Wald, a mathematician, suggested that they simply put extra armor plating where the bullet holes weren’t. The idea was simple: if the planes are returning with bullet holes, obviously those areas can be struck without causing the planes to crash. The planes that weren’t returning, Wald theorized, are the ones that are getting hit in different areas. The engineers’ error was so significant, statisticians decided to name it: survivorship bias (the tendency to include only successes in statistical analysis). Any time you only examine just the successes, you will skew the results.

If we return to the airport bookstore in our minds, we see the shelves littered with survivorship bias. We love reading about successes. That’s why books by celebrity CEOs and leadership gurus are among the best sellers of any list. We’d much rather read about the brilliant company leader who started working out of his garage and ended up dominating the industry. However, when this is all we consume about leadership, we succumb to survivorship bias. While a celebrity CEO may reveal the secrets he used to climb to the top, how are we to know they work in every situation?

This is where theory comes in.

Leadership and organizational theories are constructed and tested by examining not just the successes but also the failures. Good and bad leaders, successful and failing change efforts, all get included in the analysis and the resulting theories spare us from our survivorship bias. If we want to grow into outstanding leaders, we must know how and when to utilize the knowledge provided by the existing body of leadership research.

Good leaders focus on where the bullet holes are; great leaders consider where they aren’t.

Please provide comments on this timely topic.

ABOUT THE GUEST BLOGGER

David Burkus is the editor of LeaderLab, a community of resources dedicated to promoting the practice of leadership theory. He is a consultant, a speaker and an adjunct professor of business at several universities. He can be reached at david@davidburkus.com.

Leadership Attraction

Many individuals are reluctant to admit that a person’s appearance may influence how others perceive them as a leader. Let’s take a trip back to the future.

Spanning nearly two years, the 2008 presidential campaign was historical on several fronts. It was the longest presidential campaign and the most expensive in history. It was the first time that two US senators would run against each other and New York Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton was the first serious woman presidential candidate and Senator Barak Obama was the first African American nominated by a major party for president.

However, the Republican Party had a share of history also. The Republican ticket consisted of Arizona Senator John McCain, who sought to become the oldest person elected president to a first term in America, and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who was to become the first woman vice president candidate for the Republican Party. On November 4, 2008, Obama became the first African American to become president.  Did Trait Theory play a part in his strategy?

Leadership characteristics are important factors in the presidency that many pragmatists dismiss. Trait Theory suggests that certain individuals possess special innate qualities that make them the preferred leader. Qualities, such as height, intelligence, extroversion, and other noble traits are components of Trait Theory (See Table 7.1 in Impending Danger). Focusing on the 2008 elections, some would argue that both McCain and Obama possessed leadership qualities and support Trait Theory. However, the question must be posed ‘Which candidate best benefited from the outward perception of what a leader should look like?”

First, physical characteristics are what most individuals see first. In this presidential election, some of the physical traits included height, age, and race. Some people have identified strong physical characteristics as a perquisite for leadership selection. This application can easily be seen in athletics and activities that require great physical ability. Obama hovered over McCain in terms of physical stature. Obama was thought to be 6 feet 1 inch while McCain was 5 feet 9 inches. Obama, being tall and sturdy, would overshadow a much shorter and frail McCain. In many people’s minds, the election was much more about optics than content in some cases.

For example, the presidential debates also demonstrated showmanship. Political organizers worried how their candidates would be viewed by the voters. Therefore, the style of the debate was always a strategic consideration for the McCain camp. This reality was a major concern to McCain’s campaign because of the public perception. Obama was noticeably taller. Two of the three presidential debates in the fall were seated debates, perhaps to neutralize Obama’s height advantage.

Race was the mysterious factor in the election. There was no consensus on the role of race with some experts concluding race would have a significant impact (the Bradley effect) while others predicted that Obama’s race would aid his candidacy given the guilt, sympathy, and compensatory factors for the legacy of racism.

 According to a CNN Exit Poll (16,000 participants) of the presidential election, twice as many of those polled said age was an important factor in their vote as those who indicated race. Specifically, 78% went for Obama to 21% for McCain among voters who thought age was important. However, individuals who said race was an important factor voted 55% to 44% in favor of Obama. However, Obama also was the winner for people who said race was not important.

Second, intrinsic character attributes were also a significant factor. Most people admitted that Obama had star power. He was able to bring record number of crowds to his rallies. Former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell supported Obama which broke ranks from his Republican Party: “He has both style and substance. I think he is a transformational figure.”

Yet, both candidates attempted to frame their opponent in a character framework. Feeding on the perceived eloquence of Obama, McCain’s strategy was to paint Obama as a celebrity and elitist. Additionally, McCain tried to use Obama’s articulate speech and his charisma with his followers as void of any substance. Obama had his own method for framing McCain. Obama attempted to portray McCain as the third-term of President Bush.

Last, political strategists sought out ways to best showcase their candidate while highlighting any character flaws in the opposition. The results showed that voter perception counts. Obama was viewed as the agent of change while McCain was viewed as part of the current establishment. Given the fact that Obama won every major demographic in the election, Trait Theory may have played a role in the outcome of the election.

Does having good looks really matter in our PC culture? If so, why?  Is there any value in applying Trait Theory to 21st Century organizations?

© 2011 by Daryl D. Green