Tuesday, August 30, 2011



If you work in the United States, please help my research team and me by taking our International Leadership Survey. We will treat your response confidentially. We will also publish our findings anonymously in our reports. It should only take you about 10 minutes to complete the online questionnaire. Please take the US survey here:

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/490303/ILS

We appreciate your participation in this potentially important study!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011



Those who employ leadership serve as leaders, de facto. For example, when David slew the giant Goliath (Holy Bible, 1 Samuel 17; Qur'an, II: 247-252), inasmuch as the event represented leadership, David served as a leader. Although leader development programs can ostensibly prepare people to take broadened responsibilities, in this event, David did not serve as some type of sub-standard, junior leader who, with more training and development, would someday graduate to "adult" leadership. In fact, it appears that in this particular case, his lack of leadership development might have facilitated his ability or at least his willingness to lead. Where other, more developed members of the Israelite army, including those who possessed substantial positional authority, found that the potential costs of facing Goliath in a showdown far outweighed any likely benefits; the arguably experienced, but unlearned David succeeded in carrying out his plan and accomplishing his objective. Based on this example (as well as on a host of theoretical theses and other representative examples), it appears that whether people serve at the executive level or at the part time, volunteer level; whether young or older; in fact, no matter the categories people represent: anyone can serve as a leader.

Friday, July 1, 2011



I just read an entry in the Harvard Business Review, by organizational behavior guru, Jeffrey Pfeffer. The title: Good Leaders Acknowledge What Can't Be Done. In this well-written article, Dr. Pfeffer described how leaders have sometimes faced the decision to: (a) pour more resources into failing or marginally successful projects or (b) cut their losses and move to the next projects. He continued by explaining how "bad leaders" often select the first choice and how various psychological forces underlie their selection. Of course, some of these forces included the pressure of expectations, the associated face-saving, and the accolades awarded to heroes who resolve crises, among others. Still another included the misconception that some leaders have believed that since they have control, they will ultimately succeed. In his conclusion, Pfeffer suggested that when faced with the aforementioned decision, good leaders choose to admit they cannot do it all and then they follow the associated, more successful courses of action.

I found several issues worth debating in Dr. Pfeffer's thesis and I plan to address a few of these over the course of the next few entries. One of the issues I chose to answer included his implicit assumptions (at least my inferences) regarding the terms "leader" and "leadership." His examples of leaders ran the gamut from MBA students, simulating a financial management problem, to CEOs and COOs, serving as titular heads of multi-national corporations. Fair enough, but in real-world scenarios, three issues have appeared to challenge his use of these terms in these applications.

First, Dr. Pfeffer referred to MBA students as leaders, as they served in the role of project manager. It seems by this he implied that members other than those serving in executive roles can serve as leaders. Several scholars have agreed with that position (McGregor, 1960; Mescon, 1958). However, Dr. Pfeffer appeared to continue his discussion by identifying leaders primarily by position. Especially when discussing leadership by positions or roles, few leaders at any levels other than at the most senior, executive levels appear to have possessed enough autonomy, authority, power, etc., to maintain inertia in projects or programs that have presented as ongoing failures. People holding greater levels of accountability within those organizations have, a priori, stopped the associated projects and programs, in order to minimize their own exposures to the inevitable losses and subsequent fallouts.

Second, only when people have ascribed to authoritative leadership by position, have leaders possessed the wherewithal to end-run around standard, cost benefits analyses in strategizing courses of action. Furthermore, both end-run strategizing and cost benefits analyzing have arguably served more as functions of management, rather than leadership (Schermerhorn, 2005).

Third, regardless of the selected definitions of leader and leadership, leaders have undoubtedly faced the cited decision, but an associated question emerges. Have others not faced this decision, as well? It seems that choosing between continuing to follow a destructive course and cutting losses in favor of next projects has presented a universal dilemma that has transcended all people, regardless of their hierarchical positions, operational roles, or functional behaviors (Ferguson, 2008; Pugno, 2008). What advantages does it provide to have cited this as a leader-centric phenomenon, at least without having specifically noted its unique applicability to leaders?

Ferguson, L. (2008). Transformational empowerment. Interbeing, 2(1), 57-60. Retrieved from Proquest.

McGregor, D. (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Mescon, M. H. (1958). The dynamics of industrial leadership. The Journal of the Academy of Management, 1(2), 13-20.

Pugno, M. (2008). Economics and the self: A formalisation of self-determination theory. Journal of Socio-Economics, 37(4), 1328-1346. doi:10.1016/j.socec.2007.03.004

Schermerhorn, J. R. (2005). Management (8th ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011



On a blog I follow called Running Chicken, blog-meister Ari Kohen (2011) implied that he could defend the core libertarian concept of economic liberty. However, he also noted the conceptual difficulties associated with defending requirements for members of society to care for the poor, in light of the stated constraints surrounding economic liberty. Of course, economic liberty, in its truest form, requires that society only care for the poor insofar as individuals might freely choose to charitably give. Conversely, in his seminal work, Capitalism and Freedom, free market theorist and champion of liberty, Milton Friedman (1962/1982) expressed his belief in the existence of a need for government intervention to alleviate poverty by supporting the poor. Furthermore, he specifically stated that cash, rather than any forms of subsidy, represents the form of assistance most useful to the individual (pp. 178-188, 192). Additionally, in his dissertation work, Bob Namvar (1995) found that any solution designed to expand the economy must include shifting money from capitalists to workers, which he said, then results in an overall increased marginal propensity to consume.

Over the past few years, the US Government has (in deficit) spent hundreds of billions of dollars in transfer to capitalists. They did this, ostensibly, to reconcile high unemployment, to stimulate a stagnant economy, and to address resulting poverty. Some money arguably arrived to those who needed it most, but how much now resides in multi-millionaires’ off-shore accounts? Regardless of their motives in answering needs that even the staunchest of libertarians might find necessary, re: the “neighborhood effect” (Friedman, 1962/1982, p. 191); the US Government most surely targeted the wrong recipients for bailout monies. If economic stimulus serves as the desired outcome, then redistributing wealth from the top economic rung to the bottom, in the form of cash, arguably seems the better, a priori answer.

Friedman, M. (1982). Capitalism and freedom. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Kohen, A. (2011, May 27). A research agenda for bleeding heart Libertarians [Web log post]. Retrieved from: http://kohenari.net/post/5897394064

Namvar, M. H. S. (1995). The consumption function and the distribution of income. Dissertations Abstract International: Section A. Humanities and Social Sciences, 56(10), 4060.

Friday, June 3, 2011



I just shared this in a private group on LinkedIn:

From where do the ideas stem that leaders and leadership, by definition, are great and that managers and management, by definition, suck? Or that some few, blessed people somehow receive the "gift" of leadership? I agree with the stated notion [sic someone stated it in the LinkedIn group] that leaders think outside the box and innovate with new ideas. Those seem to present as a couple of skills required for the leadership toolbox/skill set. Ostensibly, leaders demonstrate their appropriate use of leadership when they employ those skills to answer situations that call for them. However, I can easily remember hearing a tremendous number of complaints, through the years, in both the military and civilian sectors, regarding people who thought outside the box and provided steps to innovation. Many of these leaders did this with the stated motivation: "developing those around them to build a better organization and create new ways of doing business." The problems, however, arose because: (a) the people on the receiving end neither required or desired "development;" (b) the organizations they served didn't need the level of full-scale "fixing" they tried to accomplish; or (c) the new ways of doing business they proposed proved more costly than their worth. Although these leaders employed the very skills that we agreed define or at least contribute to leadership (innovation and thinking outside the box), they did so inappropriately. They led, but in their leading, some of them tried to "reinvent the wheel."

I would also argue that the "lack of leadership" in this context, refers rather to an inappropriate lack concern for other people. This concept has appeared to manifest itself through egoism, self-aggrandizement, selfishness, us-them, etc. In this regard, throughout the management literature since the 1930s and 1940s, researchers and other authors have continuously presented information regarding the importance of behaving toward people by employing what McGregor coined "Theory Y." Yes, Theory Y originally related to management, not leadership. Therefore, I posit that this destructive focus on self could affect all people in their efforts to lead OR manage. Moreover, this also suggests that people don't understand "good" management, as it relates to human relations, any better than they understand how to employ good leadership.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011



I just finished re-reading a blog post written in 2009 by a colleague of mine, Dr. Jeff Hale. In his blog, Dr. Hale posited a notion that true leadership means "going forth to die." He established his thesis by recounting the leadership example provided in the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ. By historical and faith accounts, the Lord served as an original member of the "Godhead," humbled Himself by taking the form of man, then chose to offer Himself in payment for the sinful transgressions of human beings. Based on this example, Dr. Hale suggested that: (a) true leadership has more to do with commitment than results and (b) many in leadership look to gain abnormally high levels of successful results by only investing nominal levels of courage. In that regard, Ms. Elizabeth Gerhart (personal communication, March 23, 2011) observed that Dr. Hale and his colleague appear to have attached a name and formalized a definition for this type of sacrificial leadership. She offered: "One of the most complete definitions is presented by Hale and Fields (as cited in Schminke, 2010, p. 37), who defined servant leadership as 'an understanding and practice of leadership that places the good of those led over the self-interest of the leader, emphasizing leader behaviors that focus on follower development, and de-emphasizing glorification of the leader.'" From these, I find myself asking at least two questions: (a) taking the a priori position that Jesus consistently served in the role of leader (not necessarily a foregone conclusion), did His sacrifice originate out of leading or out of following? In other words, would His death have meant anything to people who failed to recognize Him as a leader, but only as a follower? and (b) does the leadership commitment discussed by Dr. Hale in his blog require the immediate results associated with sacrificial death or the ongoing results associated with living a life of service? Heroes die daily and often under tragic circumstances. However, I would argue that living a life of true service to others forms the great sacrifice in modern Western cultures. Additionally, I would also argue that by definition, we should consider those people servant leaders who offer that sacrifice, regardless of the roles in which they serve.

Hale, J. (2009, April). Leadership means go forth to die [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://goforthtodie.blogspot.com/2009/04/leadership-means-go-forth-to-die.html

Schminke, M. (2010). Managerial ethics: Managing the psychology of morality. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor & Francis.

Sunday, March 27, 2011



It has appeared that some organizations have become increasingly dependent upon highly distributed teams or groups that operate in unbounded or open environments (Arrow, McGrath, & Berdahl, 2000). By my own observations, this has further appeared to have especially included virtual teams and cross-cultural components of multi-national organizations. As a result, the risks to those organizations associated with failure to adapt and adequately respond to emerging needs seems to have presented increasingly greater challenges for organizational success. Furthermore, an a priori baseline premise that underlies the survivability of any organization, group, or team has included the idea that none can avoid competition or the errors that necessarily emerge when answering challenges. In the realm of complex, adaptive, and dynamic systems, the natural escalation of opportunities and challenges versus hierarchical, mechanistic decision-making processes has also demonstrated that some traditional, structure-bound organizations have become vulnerable to competitors who have routinely decided and tried to control courses of action (read lead) at the operative level, rather than at the strategic or coordinative levels (Stacey, 1992). Based on the efforts and successful results of these agile competitors, it seems that a compelling need has emerged: to augment traditional decision-making approaches with methods and techniques that allow teams and other work groups to control more efforts at the local, operative level; in order to survive, mitigate loss, respond, and thrive in the presence of similarly structured competitors. This has seemed especially important regarding situations wherein team or group members have possessed the resources and structure to provide for complete answers to the challenges and challengers they have faced. At least one Biblical Scripture seems to have confirmed this concept, by predicting a likely result of adaptive responses: "...  I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some" 1 Cor. 9:20 (New International Version).

Arrow, H., McGrath, J. E., & Berdahl, J. L. (2000). Small groups as complex systems: Formation, coordination, development, and adaptation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Stacey, R. D. (1992). Managing the unknowable: Strategic boundaries between order and chaos in organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Thursday, March 10, 2011



We have probably all known of at least one manager who employed McGregor's (1960) Theory X, as his or her nominal management style. Several of my past managers typically used Theory X in praxis. However, I could argue that in certain cases, a few of them seemed somewhat justified in doing so. Some specific examples included situations wherein team members refused to "carry their loads." The managers in question applied Theory X behaviors situationally. These situations did not present as Pygmalion effects or as self-fulfilling prophesies (Kierein & Gold, 2000), where managers' expectations shaped the subordinates' behaviors. In fact, the managers appeared to have initially employed Theory Y-type behaviors. They only employed Theory X behaviors after they had provided ample opportunities for the dysfunctional members to fully participate. In that regard, Sewell (2005) argued that in what I define as Theory Y-type organizations, few checks exist to protect the majority who faithfully carry out their responsibilities "… from a minority who indulge in opportunistic self-interested behavior" (p. 686). He further explained that managers require the ability to control, regardless of organizational structure, to maintain "the operation of disciplinary mechanisms…" (p. 685). Consequently, it appears that some situations might call for Theory X behavioral responses, even if a given organization or a sub-unit thereof might prosper more from the routine application of Theory Y.

Kierein, N. M., & Gold, M. A. (2000). Pygmalion in work organizations: A meta-analysis. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 21(8), 913-928.

McGregor, D. (1960). The human side of enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Sewell, G. (2005). Nice work? Rethinking managerial control in an era of knowledge work. Organization, 12(5), 685-704.

Sunday, March 6, 2011



I just finished reading over another journal article on "leadership." It doesn't really matter which one. The author and the editor of the top tier periodical had performed their tasks sufficiently well to attract and keep my attention through most of the article's 28 .pdf pages. I had not read the article before, but I could have. Similar to many other articles that have previously passed before my eyes, this one discussed how achieving business success in the 21st century will require leaders in those endeavors to develop and employ laundry lists of specifically required attitudes (read values) and behaviors. The author prescribed the adoption of particular, but not-so-new factors like authenticity, integrity, and creativity. He also discussed the importance for leaders and would-be leaders to integrate these learned concepts into every aspect of their lives. However, at the end, I found myself asking the same tired question that I have asked so many times before: "How does what he wrote uniquely apply to leadership?"

Don't get me wrong. I'm as big a fan as anybody of authenticity, integrity, and creativity. I like it when people I work for tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I also generally enjoy it when those I follow explore new and different ways to do things better. In fact, I'll concede that almost everyone, everywhere would likely consider these good values for leaders to possess and good types of behaviors for leaders to exhibit; and in all areas of their lives. However, therein lies the rub. I not only like it when my leaders tell the truth; I like it when my peers and my followers tell the truth too. I like it when everyone, regardless of position or level of authority, employs accountability and integrity as lifestyles. For some reason, many authors in both scholarly journals and in the popular press seem to have concluded that these noble constructs implicitly and uniquely describe, define, or otherwise explain leadership. Some of these constructs may indeed relate to our ideals of the nature of what good leaders do, but they totally fail to identify the actual nature of leadership -- especially regarding the natures of management and other possible forms of providing direction to accomplish desired outcomes.

Friday, March 4, 2011



In contextual situations, it appears that members of organizations work at the transparent, operative level to achieve common outcomes -- at least in Western cultures. In these cases, the establishment of desired common outcomes might typically result from negotiated compromises, mediated settlements, or other transactional considerations; and members of given organizations enter into these (or not) with relative freedom. The associated organizations then arguably reach specific, desired outcomes, as those outcomes come to fruition from the voluntary, proactive or reactive alignment of members' values, goals, and efforts. Even when differences in motivations between members result in hidden or secret agendas and those agendas yield political in-fighting, the accomplishment of the organizations' goals generally remain the focal concern of the members. In non-contextual situations, the political or cultural agendas of the one or of the few present as more important than the agendas and transparency concerns of the many. Although desired outcomes might still result from negotiated compromises, mediated settlements, or other transactional considerations; members' relative freedoms to do or to not do and the voluntary alignment of their values, goals, and efforts all present as issues of secondary, tertiary, or irrelevant importance. Generally, in these cases, the accomplishment of the leaders' wills remain the focal concern of the members.

As opposed to contextual situations for which organizational members employ management or leadership, non-contextual situations likely provide appropriate opportunities for those members to employ ruling or lordship and dictatorship. Ruling or lordship seems to present as appropriate in non-emergent situations and dictatorship in emergent situations. As with managers, rulers employ standard operating procedures, looking to maximize efficiency and effectiveness in accomplishing tasks, objectives, and goals. As with leaders, those who dictate do so without using standard operating procedures, looking to mitigate loss or success. Unlike situations that call for the employment of management or leadership, the use of lordship or dictatorship primarily work to further the ruler or dictators’ ideological agendas. Therefore, in non-contextual situations, organizations would necessarily place higher priorities on accomplishing the wills of the directors than they would on placing high priorities on content-based, contextual needs, as otherwise generally acknowledged by the organizations (or societies) relevant stakeholders. Appropriate applications for the employment of lordship might emerge in situations that present with ambiguous or limited information. Appropriate applications for the employment of dictatorship might emerge in situations that present varying, variable, or otherwise changing dynamics, for which no unique set of standard operating procedures could exist.

Sunday, February 27, 2011



Management consists of doing things right and leadership consists of doing the right things… (paraphrased from Bennis & Goldsmith, 1997, p. 4). I infer from this statement that both management and leadership present as modes of directing behaviors of self and others. People appear to most appropriately use either of these constructs in contextual situations. Management also appears to best apply in non-emergent conditions, where clear standards and procedures exist. The goals for management likely include achieving efficiency and effectiveness, based primarily on those contextual standards and procedures. Conversely, leadership appears to best apply in emergent conditions, where clear standards or procedures do not exist. The goals for leadership likely include mitigating loss and maximizing gain.

In the literature, some have described leadership as having only to do with functional positions of authority. Others appear to have discounted that notion (e.g., “all leaders manage, but not all managers lead”). In Western cultures, typical organizations arguably hire managers to fill hierarchical positions. They further seem to expect only those managers to lead at the appropriate times. Even if the associated hierarchies would welcome leadership from "the masses," many have presented structures designed to withhold leadership authority from anyone other than managers. This seems to contribute to two major concerns: (a) if, in situations lacking standards or procedures, subordinates present greater functional expertise (operative, coordinative, or strategic) than those in hierarchical positions "above" them, the subordinates should arguably serve as leaders, at least until the entity establishes standards and procedures. My observations indicate that sometimes this doesn’t happen and for several reasons (lack of trust, face-saving, et. al.), and (b) those with hierarchical authority can arbitrarily act as a leader when management will suffice. This appears to sometimes result in reinventing the wheel, frustration on the part of subordinates, etc. In any case, by the Bennis and Goldsmith definition, it further appears that leadership serves as the appropriate mode of direction for any given project or program, only so long as that effort lacks standards and standardized operating procedures — at which time the processes of management ought to replace the processes of leadership. Furthermore, common sense (a priori) dictates that an entity concerned with mitigating loss and maximizing gain should not stand on tradition by necessarily expecting leadership only from those in hierarchical positions, but rather, with all other things equal, that entity should enable (read: expect and require) functional experts to lead, regardless of their hierarchical positions.

Bennis, W., & Goldsmith, J. (1997). Learning to lead: A workbook on becoming a leader. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Note: I first submitted a similar statement in response to a discussion thread on Linkedin.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011



As opposed to management or leadership, non-contextual situations provide appropriate opportunities for people to employ ruling or lordship and dictatorship. Ruling or lordship presents as appropriate in non-emergent situations and dictatorship in emergent situations. As with managers, rulers employ standard operating procedures, looking to maximize efficiency and effectiveness in accomplishing tasks, objectives, and goals. As with leaders, those who dictate do so without using standard operating procedures, looking to mitigate loss or success. Unlike situations that call for the employment of management or leadership, the use of lordship or dictatorship primarily work to further the ruler or dictators' ideological agendas, rather than necessarily meeting content-based, contextual needs, as otherwise generally acknowledged by organizations or societies. Appropriate applications for the employment of lordship might emerge in situations that present with ambiguous contexts. Appropriate applications for the employment of dictatorship might emerge in situations that present various, variable, or otherwise changing contexts for which no unique set of standard operating procedures could exist.

Monday, February 21, 2011



Most organizations hire or otherwise appoint people to functional positions in order for them to fulfill the requirements of predetermined job descriptions. Organizations arguably create and maintain these job descriptions to ensure the accomplishment of particular tasks, or more likely in management levels, to ensure the accomplishment of objectives that support their goals and their overall missions. With these descriptions come implied or explicit amounts of authority and accountability and the usually unfounded assumption that selectees will appropriately assume requisite levels of responsibility. Unfounded because every situation presents unique, contextual challenges and opportunities, especially in regard to organizational culture. Consequently, questions of potential leadership effectiveness still remain, even for those selectees whose resumes align closely with posted requirements.

Saturday, February 19, 2011



I hate to echo the chorus of those who advocate the current need for leadership, for fear of beating the proverbial dead horse. However, I think I'm approaching it from a somewhat different perspective. Several scholars have suggested that management, at least on the micro level, primarily answers opportunities and concerns for which standard operating procedures already exist. Whether these challenges present in marketing, production, human resources, or some other line or staff function, the job of the manager really consists of accurately defining the existing and the desired situations and contexts confronting an organization, and then picking the correct answers to close those gaps. Stated differently, the role of someone exercising management consists of choosing the correct processes and supervising their implementation.

Further research has suggested that although equally contextual with management, leadership primarily deals with emergent opportunities and concerns for which no one (at least within the given organization) has established a clear cut set of answers. Therefore, it further appears that those assuming leadership mantles use critical thinking skills (along with other types of analyses -- Bayesean, stochastic modeling, et al.) to both develop and implement processes. This development and implementation can take place by those in functional positions of authority or by any stakeholders in the organization who posses the expertise and the wherewithal to accomplish the required tasks, objectives, or goals.

Others scholars have argued that leadership does not go on in perpetuity. Once the emergent need subsides and a standard operating procedure applies, the leader re-assumes his or her role for standard, day to day operations. Many would also probably argue that times like these have never existed before and that these times bring with them new contexts. Therefore, it only seems reasonable that these times also bring more and greater opportunities for leadership than what has existed in the memorable past. The real questions seem to include whether any successful future organizations will let: (a) old ways of thinking, (b) old hierarchies established by political in-fighting, and (c) old "we've always/never done it that way" answers continue as the ongoing mode of operation... Or will successful future organizations rise to the occasion and look for new answers from members who might not have contributed much in the past, but who possess the expertise to significantly move these organizations forward, oth now and in the future.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011



It's interesting to me how many organizations state their corporate beliefs regarding the importance of hiring and maintaining a diverse workforce. I have found this especially true of some of the more renowned institutions of higher education. However, upon close examination of the overall makeup of their faculty members, it appears, a priori, that many of these institutions employ a definition of diversity biased toward political correctness. In fact, it further appears that they generally recruit faculty members who present little authentic, substantive diversity at all. Many of them offer a varied racial and ethnic mix, represented by both sexes. Yet, in the areas of background and values, similarities rather than differences seem more prevalent. Specifically: other than as starving grad students, few faculty recruits I have observed appear to have known actual poverty. Some have worked only in academe, if at all, where they found employment in roles as teaching, research, or other types of graduate assistants. Others have typically served in management positions in business and in government services, often remaining only for an internship or for the minimum required term. Additionally, many generally lean toward the left in their political ideologies. Therefore, it appears that if these organizations truly desired to hire faculty members, researchers, consultants, or trainers possessing a diverse background from the norm, it would include people more like me.

I grew up in a single parent home, often wondering where the next meal would come from. I hated high school because of the bullying and the drama and I quit after the tenth grade. The next autumn I enrolled directly into junior college and majored in music, thereby establishing a broad-based humanities background. By the time of graduation, the administration at the college I attended had selected me for who's who, thereby identifying me as a person with the potential for success. Not having enough money to continue at an upper level institution, I enlisted in the US Navy. For over 16 years, I served at the operative level, either as a worker or as a technical supervisor. Consequently, I developed real experience, unclouded by social desirability bias, as to which leader and manager characteristics actually motivated me and other non-managers around me and which characteristics provided nothing more than so much fluff. While serving in the Navy I also earned a non-traditional, but accredited BS with a concentration in Sociology and a traditional MS in Management -- something I posit that most managers expect of other managers, but few expect of technicians and other workers in non-management positions. Additionally, while in the Navy, I developed curriculum and taught organizational effectiveness topics (Ed Schein's organizational culture, Nadler and Tushman's diagnosing organizational behavior, Kast and Rosenzweig's systems theory, as well as a host of others), using stand-up, face-to-face instruction, 8 hours per day, 3 to 5 days per week, for 4 or 5 weeks at a time. I also developed curriculum and taught nuclear engineering topics that included thermodynamics, heat transfer and fluid flow, and nuclear physics, among others. Therefore, although I have not researched stochastic modeling or Bayesian forecasting, per se, if an institution needed for me to learn and teach these, I find it difficult to foresee any problems doing so. The remainder of my vita reveals a similarly varied background that has included providing stand-up instruction of: (a) project management topics to members of the US Internal Revenue Service and (b) team building concepts to members of the US Agency for International Development and for NGOs in Bulgaria, El Salvador, Kenya, Mozambique, and South Africa, among others. In my teaching roles I have consistently received stellar reviews from both my students and my supervisors. I have additionally served as a successful project manager, account representative, sales manager, real estate broker, and VP of Operations. Politically, I am conservative and I find freedom more important than security. Of all of the other candidates seeking a position, who else brings this breadth of diversity?

Friday, February 11, 2011



In many modern definitions, other terms supplant the term leadership. Some writers have used the words leader and leadership interchangeably with words like manager and management, lord and lordship, and ruler and ruler-ship. Some others have gone on to attach leadership only to hierarchical positions and to imply that only those "above" possess the wherewithal to apply leadership in any given situation and that one can identify anyone in the hierarchy below that level as a follower, de facto. Conversely, Mescon (1958) suggested that leadership serves as a somewhat situational construct in which a group of people or an enterprise grants authority to an individual, proportional to the ability that he or she provides to satisfy the group or enterprise's needs. He further added that the individual the group or enterprise grants leadership to cannot authentically claim leadership as a permanent possession, but only until the point at which the group or enterprise withdraws and transfers the associated authority to other individuals, usually based on the first leader's inability or unwillingness to provide observable progress toward the attainment of the organization's desired outcomes. This corresponds closely with other researchers' noted observations that there exists no permanency in leadership. Rather, opportunities for leadership emerge when crises or other ethical dilemmas present opportunities for the creation of leadership roles based on group needs and other variables. When needs no longer present, there remains no requirement for continued leadership (Barker, 2001; Malina, 1996).

Barker, R. A. (2001). The nature of leadership. Human Relations, 54(4), 469-494.

Malina, B. J. (1996). The social world of Jesus and the Gospels. London: Routledge.

Mescon. M. H. (1958). The dynamics of industrial leadership. The Journal of the Academy of Management, 1(2), 13-20.

Monday, February 7, 2011



In discussing the benefits of understanding small groups as complex systems, I suggest that one must first identify what types of groups he or she wishes to discuss. Groups of what are we talking about – diodes, resistors, and transistors playing music in an iPod; computer mainframes joining in parallel to solve quantum equations; or maybe a Navy task force of unmanned ships, planes, and submarines accomplishing a mission of national security? Any complexity associated with technology derives not from the technology itself. Even the most complicated technology represents only simple components working together in pre-determined fashions. One can see this, a priori, in the fact that people with no more than high school educations (or less) operate, maintain, and repair the most technologically advanced equipment in the world. Therefore, even when reduced to a discussion of technology, at this point in the evolution of civilization, one must still evaluate the human factor when considering systemic complexity.

The complexity of human systems derives from the virtually limitless number of variables involved, sometimes working together and other times working at odds, all of which influence human decisions and outcomes. These variables include not only those that answer technical or “what” questions, like equipment systems do when on their own – that’s simple. No, human systems present as complex, because they pose additional questions resulting from ideological “how” and cultural “why” variables, as well (Schein, 1992; Tichy, 1992). By design, machines run in an “if, then” environment. If the temperature becomes too hot or cold, one needs merely to adjust the thermostat to the acceptable range and the equipment, if not damaged from the temperature spike, then returns the temperature to nominal levels. Conversely, by design, human beings only “run” in a similar situation at a micro level. If the temperature becomes too hot or cold, one may adjust the thermostat to the acceptable range, put on a sweater or take off a jacket, or say “to heck with it” and leave the building. The decisions he or she makes result from a complex system that includes interpreting physical and behavioral artifacts through perceptions, influenced by his or her values and assumptions. These, in turn, derive from experiences and genetic predispositions.

The primary challenge for research: Too many variables exist to allow for researchers to isolate generalize-able cause and effect, especially at the macro level, by using empirical, positivist and post-positivist analytic reductionism. One must arguably use a holistic approach to see the “big picture,” but even then, difficulties arise because of the adaption and dynamism associated with human systems (Arrow, McGrath & Berdahl, 2000).

The primary challenge for leadership: Who really possesses charge? Who really retains ultimate power, the exempts or the non-exempts, the guards or the prisoners, the dominants or the submissives? Through the answers to these questions, a huge challenge for leaders seems to emerges: Leaders must come to understand that the true mission and ultimate outcome of any endeavor that involves people, must necessarily regard personal relationships as an end, rather than as a means to an end.

Arrow, Holly, McGrath, Joseph, and Berdahl, Jennifer. Small Groups as Complex Systems. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000.

Schein, Edgar. Organizational Culture and Leadership. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992.

Tichy, Noel. Managing Strategic Change: Technical, Political, and Cultural Dynamics. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1992.

Monday, January 31, 2011



During a sermon a pastor friend of mine preached not long ago, he made a statement essentially saying that all one has to do to see a leader is to look for a servant. I have confronted and contemplated that saying and the implications surrounding it before... and I probably will again. It seems that many people, especially in Christian circles, have ascribed to some theory of servant leadership and consequently to the broader human relations foundations upon which scholars and others have built servant leadership and similar types of theories. Several have also suggested that they base such beliefs primarily on their interpretation of Mark 9:33-37, a passage that loosely states that those who would be greatest must be servants. Closer inspection suggests that these may have misinterpreted that passage since, "… God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him" (Acts 10:34b-35, NASB). Furthermore, the word for great in the Greek (ìÝãáò) has no relationship to the word for lead or leadership (åkóåíÝãêwò). Additionally, the observations that: (a) some people have placed service squarely into their descriptions of correct ways to lead, and (b) those descriptions have subsequently influenced their traditions, which now also define leadership as service and vice versa, have not accounted for the other observations that: (a) different people define service in different ways, and (b) what appears as a service to some might actually present as a disservice to others. Additionally, since "… faith, if it has no works, is dead…," (James 2:17b, NASB), then the suggestion that one had the correct motives or behavioral intentions would seem to provide little justification for the almost necessarily confounded results.

Another problem seems to emerge when defining leadership as service. This problem appears to relate to most all of the traits listed in all the leadership theories presented over the last century. The problem: organizations have routinely desired the exhibition of what theorists have called leadership traits from all members, not just leaders. For example, have organizations only desired for leaders to serve? Have they not also desired for followers and peers to serve, as well? In a study designed to identify major leadership traits and attributes, Winston and Patterson (2006) cited over 90 leadership variables they gleaned from a survey of over 150 articles and books on leadership (they actually found that the day they looked, a popular online database listed over 26,000 articles regarding leadership). Some of these variables included selecting; equipping; training; influencing; focusing others on the mission and objectives, causing others to expend spiritual, emotional, and physical energy, both willingly and enthusiastically; and using critical thinking skills, insight, intuition, persuasive rhetoric, and interpersonal communications. Most every organization would arguably describe these and most of the other attributes cited as competencies they desire in leaders. I posit, however, that it also appears likely that those same organizations would desire for their followers to exhibit these attributes, as well. Which organizations would not want followers to use critical thinking or superior communication skills when they confront challenging situations? Which organizations would not desire for their followers to understand and to buy into their missions and objectives, so well that those followers, independent of any leader inputs, motivate each other to provide discretionary effort to achieve tasks, objectives, and goals? Some theorists might arguably call that level of follower input a type of self-leadership or possibly a form of emergent leadership, but can they have it both ways? To me, it seems somewhat disingenuous to define leadership only in terms of functional position, while further suggesting that anyone in any position throughout an organization can exercise leadership, based on situational contingencies.

Winston, B., & Patterson, K. (2006). An Integrative Definition of Leadership. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 1(2), Article 1. Retrieved July 16, 2008 from http://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/ijls/new/vol1iss2/winston_patterson.doc/winston_patterson.htm.

Friday, January 28, 2011



It's been almost a year since I began full-time PhD work at Regent University. Sometimes, I have felt like the professors were trying to hook a two-inch information fire hose to the back of my brain. At other times, it was only a one-inch hose. Therefore, as you might expect, I have developed some new thoughts, feelings, views, and opinions; some of these personal perspectives have changed; and others have remained relatively the same, but somewhat deeper. These new, changed, and deepened perspectives primarily concern leadership, but they also cover organizations, generally, and to a lesser extent research, and consulting. If you've followed this site, you've probably noted some of my new and changing leadership philosophy. This month, I'll try to encapsulate where I presently find myself.

Leadership

I've operationalized a theoretical definition of leadership. It's different than many of the other ones I've read about and heard and therefore, different than what I used to accept as leadership. Where many, if not most, of the competing definitions have something more to do with a leader's ability (to create vision, influence followers, etc.), the definition I arrived at represents more of a process of leadership. As such, the phrase "anyone can be a leader" becomes much more than a slogan or a cliché that coaches use to try to encourage members to give their all. This theory implicitly suggests that there exists a strong likelihood that everyone is regularly confronted with leadership opportunities to which their preparation will determine the level of success of the resulting outcomes. Here's what I've come up with:

“Leadership is a response to emergent, contextual opportunities where, in a given situation, an expert in subject matter or process exercises authority and assumes personal responsibility and accountability in directing activities of self and others, with the behavioral intention of minimizing or eliminating an ethical gap between what is and what should be, as defined by concerned stakeholders.”

Several authors' contributions guided my path to this theory. The most persuasive of them included Richard Barker[1], Bruce Malina[2], and Michael Mescon[3], with added persuasion from Charles Manz and Chris Neck[4], Robert Terry[5], and Ralph Stacey[6]. Here's some food for further thought. Leaders can develop responses both proactively and reactively. Emergent refers to anything non-routinized. Contextual refers to anything specific, as opposed to general. One can grasp or receive authority. No one can hold another person responsible for anything[7] (the root word is response -- one responds, he or she accepts responsibility or not). The level of accountability applied should equate to the level of authority given or grasped. Providing direction requires content or process expertise -- that's where I believe leadership style enters (great man, transactional, situational, transformative, servant, etc.). One can lead others, as well as individually follow his or her own lead. Behavioral intentions count at least as much toward building and maintaining relationships as the work does and after the work is over, relationships will still be around. Because it deals with ethics, all leadership concerns the spiritual aspects of one's self. As important as the desires of self and followers become, leaders must also consider the concerns of members of their global neighborhood when directing outcomes.

Organizations

A huge, HUGE amount of literature exists regarding organizations. Much of it describes, defines, and explains these groupings of human beings as systems. These systems present as open, closed, rational, natural, chaotic, orderly, bounded, and unbounded, among others. The more I've contemplated "systems theory," the more I've come to regard it as potentially cold and impersonal. Whether an organization consists of 2 or 2,000,000 people, the operative word is still people. In light of the works of Thomas Merton[8], Ralph Stacey, and my dialogue cohort, I can no longer look at organizations as systems and not see people. Additionally, because these organizational systems consist of people, they exist with much more complexity, adaptability, and dynamism than do typical mechanical or electrical systems[9]. Consequently, outcomes may relate more to the emerging network than they do to any plan of action. I believe Stacey would say that with a bit more resolve, however, I also believe the more closely the members' collective values align with each other's, as well as the organization's vision, mission, and plan of action, all other things being equal, the more likely they are to achieve the planned outcomes, regardless of the level of complexity or the emergence of concerns calling for adaptive solutions[10].

Research

I used to believe that one's research stood on its own merit, somewhat separate from community service and from teaching. I now believe that they work together, along with the integration of information across disciplines. Standards, however, create issues. Disparity exists regarding scholars' roles; both between responsibilities (discovery, integration, application, and teaching)[11] and between institutions. While a concern for fairness should probably influence outcomes -- the goals, preparation, methods, results, presentation, and critique[12], where does the relationship element enter in? What role does psychological, emotional, familial, and spiritual formation of an individual member play? How do we and how should we measure success; by the output, growth, or relationship we develop with the member who conducts the research?

An additional overriding concern I have with quantitative, quasi-experimental research in social sciences applications is the number of researchers who are willing to tout great breakthroughs and generalize their findings, while forming limited theoretical foundations and reporting survey results that consist of R2 values of .30 or .40 at most. This goes hand-in-glove with what sociologist, Peter Berger[13] notes about research in his discipline and what I believe to be true in social sciences generally; that any trend toward narrow empiricism, leaves a discipline lacking in theoretical depth.

Finally, I believe that researchers in leadership studies are generally biased in their assumptions about who contributes the leadership processes in organizational settings. Much of the literature suggests that leaders emerge throughout any organization, but when researchers in some of that same literature interview or otherwise survey leaders, they only interface with CEOs, COOs, and others in the upper echelon or strategic management teams, as leaders. In doing so, they convey the implicit message that everyone else in the organization serves exclusively in follower roles. Word up -- you can't have it both ways. You either believe the differences between leadership and management are matters of semantics (e.g., doing the right things or doing things right, leadership as a subset of management, etc.) or you believe that leadership is a process that is separate from management or functional position and that any person in an organization, qualified by their content or process knowledge or experience, can lead and therefore, should lead. If you want to know where a researcher stands on this issue, just figure out to whom s/he assigned the questionnaire(s) labeled "leader" and the questionnaires labeled "follower."

Consulting

I still believe the simplest consulting solutions are the best solutions. They present the least opportunity for miscommunication throughout an organization. Additionally, consulting is based on trust. One might have the best solution available to share, but if s/he has not built an atmosphere of trust and collaboration with the client, that expertise can be rendered relatively moot in most cases.[14] The old adage that people don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care, certainly applies to the role of a consultant. In fact, in many ways I see the consulting role as very similar to a leadership role. Some member of an organization brings in a consultant, either from inside or outside. He or she possesses process or content knowledge and attempts to solve some dilemma. The difference, however, is that as a consultant, he or she must not accept authority to conduct business that the principal should rightfully conduct. It's not fair to other stakeholders who count on the principal. It's not fair to the consultant, who is arguably at a cultural disadvantage as compared to a principal. It's not fair to the principal, who receives rewards (accolades or punishment) based only on the implementation of decisions of another person, the consultant.

[1] Barker, Richard A. "The Nature of Leadership." Human Relations 54.4 (2001): 469-493.
[2] Malina, Bruce J. The Social World of Jesus and the Gospels. London, UK: Routledge, 1996.
[3] Mescon, Michael H. “The Dynamics of Industrial Leadership.” The Journal of the Academy of Management 1.2 (1958): 13-20.
[4] Manz, Charles, and Chris Neck. "Inner Leadership: Creating Productive Thought Patterns." Academy of Management Executive 5.3 (1991): 87-95.
[5] Terry, Robert W. Authentic Leadership: Courage in Action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.
[6] Stacey, Ralph D. The Challenge of Human Interdependence: Consequences for Thinking about the Day to Day Practice of Management in Organizations. European Business Review, 19.4 (2007): 292-302.
[7] See Avery, Christopher M., Meri Aaron Walker, and Erin O'Toole Murphy. Teamwork is an Individual Skill. San Francisco: Barrett-Koehler, 2001.
[8] Merton, Thomas. No Man is an Island. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1978.
[9] See Arrow, Holly, Joseph E. McGrath, and Jennifer L. Berdahl. Small Groups as Complex Systems: Formation, Coordination, Development, and Adaptation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000.
[10] See Heifetz, Ronald A., and Donald L. Laurie. "The Work of Leadership." Harvard Business Review 75.1 (1997): 124-34.
[11] Boyer, E. L. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. New York: Jossey-Bass, 1997.
[12] Glassick, C. E., M. T. Huber, and G. I. Maeroff. Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate. New York: Jossey-Bass, 1997.
[13] Berger, Peter L. Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective. New York: Anchor Books, 1963.
[14] Block, Peter. Flawless Consulting. San Francisco: Pfeiffer. 1981.

Monday, January 24, 2011



Leadership is not servant-hood. They might ideally present similar constructs, but the similarities one finds between servant-hood and leadership arguably becomes more than a paradox, oxymoron, or conundrum. The relationship between these two presents a non-sequitur. Conder this: Did Jesus ever really command any of His disciples to serve other people in order to lead them? In several instances, He stated or implied that no one should serve anyone other than the Father (Matthew 4:10, 6:24). Likewise, the Apostle Paul stated that believers should serve the Lord (Romans 12:12 RSV). Moreover, Jesus arguably did not lay down His leadership, but rather He laid down His lordship, when He took upon Himself the form of a servant. Yes, He washed feet and yes, that was probably an act of leadership, but consider the context. Did He do it to exercise/demonstrate leadership? Was He showing them how to lead or was He leading or discipling them in how to love? At the end of the day, servant leadership serves only as a form of leadership: a tool used to direct others to accomplish a mission or to achieve goals or objectives. Moreover, as theorized in the modern era, servant leadership has often appeared to require that leaders acquire and maintain knowledge of followers' needs. It would seem to demonstrate profound naiveté or the height of arrogance if one advanced a theory that human leaders have or could develop what it takes to discern absolutely between the needs of employees, clientele, and stakeholders.

Love serves as the end all to meet all. The Scriptures place it in the unique, number one position. Additionally, He commanded us to love not just our neighbors, not just our employees and friends, but also to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). How can modern theories of servant leadership reconcile that? When we love people as the end, we place ourselves in a position that compels us to acknowledge their value and the potential power they bring to any group to which they belong. The associated constructs surrounding love extend beyond the boundaries of groups and into their environments. Moreover, leadership is also not agapao, though love may play a role in well-intentioned leadership, especially in the forms of passion and compassion. Ultimately, regardless of the way we define leadership, it appears that as believers, we must employ leadership as merely one of several means to fulfill the Great Commandments. The affect of defining the leadership acts of Jesus or anyone else as the ends, rather than the means, seem fraught with potential peril: "There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 16:25, RSV).

Friday, January 21, 2011



Garvin (2005) criticized Senge's (1994) approach to the development of learning organizations in that it did not provide a framework for action. Garvin appeared to have missed Singe's point. In the original work, Senge's mission included establishing cultural assumptions to embrace, not promoting specific structural processes to employ. One must arguably recruit and convince disciples before the true development of those disciples may begin. Senge, along with some other researchers, later provided a "field book" (1994) that offered more specific directions on the structures of learning organizations. Senge appears to have understood that the questions to which Garvin needed answers (e.g., How will managers know when their companies have become learning organizations? What concrete changes in behavior are required? What policies and programs must be in place? How do you get from here to there?) would find their best answers from the ones creating and shaping programs to meet specific, local needs. Conclusion: real problems probably do not result so much from structure or implementation issues  as they reside with vision and commitment issues.

References

Garvin, D. A. (2005). Building a learning organization. In W. L. French, C. H. Bell, Jr., & R. A. Zawacki (eds.), Organization development and transformation: Managing effective change (6th ed., pp. 274-287). Boston: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Senge, P. M. (1994). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.

Senge, P. M., et. al. (1994). The fifth discipline fieldbook: Strategies and tools for building a learning organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.

Saturday, January 15, 2011



Sorry I've been so late with this month's post. We are finally settled in (more or less), here in Virginia Beach, and I am ramping up to begin class in a few days. I'll be regularly posting some of my dialogues, so please comment (challenge), as appropriate.

A recent review of servant leadership literature revealed ambiguity as to who leaders are and how we measure their success. Much of the literature describes how difficult it is to accurately identify and quantify variables in leadership research, yet typical survey instruments often include items that arguably relate more closely to values rather than behaviors, thereby limiting researcher's abilities to obtain and measure valid results. Moreover, disregarding questions specifically concerning management, one could equally apply to followers many of the items in any of the leader surveys reviewed.

Furthermore, a bias appears to exist throughout the literature that inextricably relates leadership to management or functional position within an organization. Some theorists tout that those who employ the servant leadership model must focus on "employees" rather than the organization. This notion arguably implies that leadership is necessarily a management function that these theorists tie to positional authority in organizations. However, anecdotal evidence and some other researchers (Terry, 1993; Rost, 1995) suggest that one may find leadership, by some definitions, at any level in any organization.

References:

Rost, J. C. (1995). Leadership: A discussion about ethics. Business Ethics Quarterly, 5(1), 14.

Terry, R. W. (1993). Authentic leadership: Courage in action. New York: Jossey-Bass.

Sunday, January 9, 2011



Some style guides have prescribed that in citing the Bible or other "classical" works, they do not require the inclusion of reference entries. Some writers have argued that not citing the Bible as a reference relegates it to a position of lesser importance than other references. Some members of this last group have further argued that Christian researchers have an obligation to demonstrate the importance of insuring the Bible's prominent position and status, as compared to other references. They have further argued that researchers should accomplish this by citing the Bible in reference sections when they quote or discuss Scriptures in their professional writings. To me, this proposition seems wrong headed. Scholars through the ages have arguably exalted the Bible to a position where modern resesearchers need not include in reference sections the Bible and some other works found in historical literature... Reference sections that include all of the "ordinary" references. Rather than considering the Bible and the other exempt tomes as lesser works, these scholars have actually positioned them as greater works. Therefore, it seem plausible to infer that those who force a position of includingthe Bible into reference sections actually demote and diminish the Bible from the otherwise exalted position it so rightly deserves.

Monday, January 3, 2011



Burns (1978, p. 20) said that transformational leadership "occurs when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to high levels of motivation and morality." What if the organization in question does not require "high levels of motivation and morality" to successfully complete the tasks, objectives, goals, and mission set before it or that it chooses to pursue?

Will followers not provide more discretionary effort toward accomplishing a mission, if they acquire more ownership of their organizations' visions. Does not vision ownership relate directly and proportionately to transformational leaders' abilities to motivate followers. However, a resulting question might include, "Will organizations utilizing transfromational leadership require or desire adding value beyond the minimum acceptable level necessary to accomplish the mission or to realize the vision?" Arguably, transformational leaders' uses of successful motivational techniques could result in organizational dysfunction, if, when a given organization achieves the nominal outcomes it expects it does not subsequently reward individuals for providing discretionary effort -- that effort beyond the minimum required.

Burns, J.M. (1988), Leadership. New York: Harper and Row.

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