Monday, December 30, 2013

December 30

In his book, Greenleaf (1977) employed a previous definition of leadership, upon which to build his treatise on servant leadership. Paraphrased, he said that leadership included going before and showing the way. In this raw definition, nothing suggests anything about rank, or status... only position (before or in front) and activity (trailblazing). Somewhere along the way, some people in Western culture (probably including Greenleaf) decided, then suggested and implied that the position associated with "going before" necessarily refers to rank and status. Although people who have served in coordinating and strategic roles (higher rank and status) might have gone before and shown the way, they have only appropriately done so when people needed them to take on that role; because, arguably, some challenges and opportunities have required the use of other forms of directing (or other factors, altogether), rather than leadership, to achieve best outcomes. Additionally, if this proves true, then not everything that executives have done or will do can count as "leadership." Similarly, neither have circumstances limited the use of the term leadership to those at the supervisory or executive levels. In any case, acceptance of these premises can result in the conclusion that no blurred lines of authority, responsibility, and accountability need exist; as long as people don't only use the term leader interchangeably with terms like manager, supervisor, or executive. For example, the junior members of military "fire teams" might lead their columns on paths, through uncharted territories. In these cases, they: (a) literally go before and show others the way; (b) have no need for hierarchical authority; (d) can fully understand the limitations of their authority, responsibility, and accountability; and (d) serve all of the others, as they place themselves in the primary target positions. Some people might argue that this does not represent "real" leadership. However, I posit that it represents a "stripped down" example of leadership, only. Furthermore, if people similarly stripped leadership of all the constructs that do not actually apply, they could then improve their overall leadership by focusing on the constructs that do apply.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York: Pualist Press.

Got Leadership?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

October 23

More often than not, no amounts of education and no amounts of easily accessed, understandable information will change the attitudes and subsequent behaviors of adults who have drawn value based conclusions. Better information and better education mostly provide solutions for people who seek to answer challenges and opportunities on the "technical" level. However, people who have made up their minds and then subsequently come to fully accept associated procedures as "the right way" or "the wrong way" to do business, usually hesitate in considering "facts" that challenge these value-based assumptions. Additionally, the more reinforcement their processes have received the deeper their entrenchment. This even applies to those who have decided to not care about given processes and situations. As not caring also represents a value-based (rather than technical) conclusion, no amounts of "educating," alone, will change their minds, unless and until some types of additional motivators come to serve as "significant emotional events" for them. That means that, in some cases, these people won't even acknowledge problems, until those problems become personal issues for them... and, of course, by then, they may have waited too long.

What does this mean for those who whould show the way? Since different people attach different values to given solutions, no standard answers can efficiently and effectively apply to the breadths of the associated people, processes, and situations. Therefore, (functional) leadership, rather than management, would serve as the most appropriate form of directing, to address the challenges and opportunities associated with people locked into value-based ways of doing business. Steps to take include:

  • Identify how they came to value their solutions, focusing on what specifically motivates them regarding those solutions

  • Identify what would serve as stronger motivators (usually unique to the specific persons)

  • Use as many of their senses as possible to make them feel the happiness (reward power) associated with changing and the pain (coercive power) of not changing -- on personal levels.

Note that reasoning and cursory threats, by themselves, usually won't work to change the entrenched values of the affected people (followers). In these cases, leaders have to affect followerrs on emotional levels. After all, these followers have proven and have subsequently taken ownership of their solutions. If leaders only provide words, a high likelyhood exists that the followers will also only provide words... while they continue doing business as usual, only out of sight, as necessary.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

October 12

You probably want to become a better leader or to further develop your leadership skills or the leadership skills of other people... But who really serve as leaders and what constitutes leadership? Your bottom line answers to these questions will depend on which of the faces of leadership you choose... And the face you choose will necessarily dictate your approach to taking on the responsibilities associated with leadership. In fact, if you make the wrong choice, you might convince yourself that you'll never become a leader. At the very least, you could focus on developing a set of skills associated with titles, but that don't really fit with functional leadership.

When asked, most people agreed that leadership generally means "... going out ahead to show the way" (Greenleaf, 1977). They also agreed that organizational leaders include all people who employ leadership. But it turns out that these same people appeared to apply these definitions differently...

Awhile back, a member of a leadership group within LinkedIn asked fellow members to identify the differences between leadership and management.  His request generated over 2000 responses over the course of a year.  These responses most often fit into one or the other of three categories of leadership. These categories or faces included leadership by hierarchical positions, leadership by operational roles, and leadership by functional behaviors.

Those who referred to leadership by positions, typically described leaders as those people at the pennicles of their organizations, mostly in the various ranks of chief executives. Some in this group also suggested that while leaders serve at the tops of their organizations, managers serve in lower positions, but as supervisors over other members who occupy even lower positions. To most of the people in this group, leadership behaviors included whatever behaviors leaders engage in -- simply because leaders employ those behaviors.

Others who referred to leadership by operational roles, typically explained leadership as those functional roles, in organizations, in which supervisors relate to people; as opposed to management roles, wherein supervisors relate to organizational systems.  For example, they generally suggested that people MANAGE projects, programs, portfolios and similar functions; while they LEAD human development, organizational learning, employee empowerment, and similar efforts.  Therefore, supervisors in leadership roles perform leadership behaviors associated with directing people, while supervisors in management roles perform management behaviors associated with controlling systems.

Those who promoted leadership by functional behaviors, typically described leadership as activities related to providing direction, regardless of peoples' positions or roles. Some in this category suggested that the employment of leadership primarily relates to needs in organizations for development, innovation, creativity, ingenuity, and new directions; where the employment of management relates more to standardization, maintenance, efficiency, effectiveness, and the status quo of organizations.

Where leaders, defined by positions or roles, typically continue in those positions or roles for indefinite periods; functional leadership exists for given, limited periods of time -- directly and uniquely tied to the associated contextual opportunities and challenges. Of course, those who lead from positions and roles use leadership by functional behaviors, as well. It's just that not everything they do counts as leadership and they usually use other forms of directing, like management, when situations don't call for leadership. Additionally, those who lead without regard to rank or station actually take on leadership roles, just not necessarily formal positional roles, with titles like CEO or Vice President or functional roles, with titles like project manager or team leader.

Finally, the only appropriate times for people to lead, using functional behaviors include: (a) when no validated and standardized procedures exist to answer the specific opportunities or challenges facing their group; (b) when selecting the appropriate, validated, standardized procedures to use; and (c) when stakeholders decide that they desire improvements in efficiency or effectiveness. Otherwise, the people "taking charge" should more appropriately use one of the other forms of directing -- probably management.

Remember, these three "faces" just reflect what people have said about leaders and leadership. All three descriptions represent truth, as different people understand it. Because differences exist between these categories, a lot of what one group of people will refer to as leadership might represent something totally different from what other people consider as leadership. Therefore, it makes sense for everyone to know ahead of time, which of the faces they consider real.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

September 16

No concept like American Exceptionalism can long survive, minus a foundational, common understanding and appreciation of absolute Truth. Don't get me wrong. I don't believe it's necessary for everyone in the world -- or even everyone in a given nation to absolutely believe in the same core dogma, in order to become or to remain exceptional, in one or more ways. In fact, a common premise in scientific research includes that we often approach the "real" truth, only by questioning accepted truths. However, it has seemed that, with all other things equal: (a) the further that the US has traveled down the path of relativism (e.g., the latest: Common Core Curriculum), the less relevant we have become (as a government) in world affairs and (b) the further that countries' peoples have embraced a common dogma, with apparently little tolerance for relativism (e.g., countries embracing Islam) the more relevant they have become in world affairs. Additionally, I further suggest that this this probably presents as similar to the corporate successes generally associated with creating and maintaining unified organizational visions.

In arguably his best written, but least known, major work, "Discourses on the first decade of Titus Livius," Machiavelli (tr. Thomson, 1883) observed that: "... a democracy tends to degenerate into anarchy (Kindle sec. 29). I wonder if the current state of US affairs otherwise represents a preview of such anarchy and if so, if the ongoing promotion of relativism serves as a primary factor in that transformation.

Monday, May 6, 2013

May 7

Servant first interests me most, as it applies to servant leadership. From my observations, it has appeared that servant-hood, as described by Greenleaf and arguably modeled by Jesus Christ, goes beyond presenting as a set of service-oriented behaviors to some levels of lifestyle and worldview. Deeper than easily changeable values, these deep-seated, taken-for-granted assumptions become ingrained as relatively unchangeable bases of action. People with this mentality cannot help but to serve. However, if this proves true, then people who live lifestyles that do not value service as much, probably hold to their worldviews just as strongly. Therein lies the challenge. If those who value service won't easily change, then will those who don't value service easily change? If not, can they ever authentically employ servant leadership?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

March 21

Recently, I shared with a friend of mine some of an announcement I had made to an undergraduate class that I taught. During his review, this friend noted that much of what I said, regarding critical thinking, seemed very similar to what I had written to his class in the Doctor of Strategic Leadership program at Regent University. To this, he asked: "what differences exist then, between Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral level requirements." In my immediate reply, I answered something like: "when it comes to critical thinking: no differences should exist." I believe that. A few standard models of "critical thinking" exist. As long as graduates can display the appropriate use of any of those models, then they could ostensibly establish provable positions and hold their own in defending those positions. The model that I typically propose includes: positing 1 conclusion, based on 2 or 3 premises, each of which the given apologist supports with empirical evidence. Although some differences in personal experience would likely provide for different quality proofs, the option exists for nearly everyone to draw on the experiences of other people, as they have addressed similar questions and challenges in their own lives.

So what differences do exist between professional (organizational leadership) Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral level degrees, if not in the ability to think critically? Although exceptions exist, from my perspective, these general guidelines apply:

  • Bachelors know the major theories and constructs of leadership, along with supporting concepts; and they can explain and defend the appropriate and inappropriate uses of each, based on empirical results.

  • Masters know the major theories and constructs of leadership, along with supporting concepts. They can explain and defend the appropriate and inappropriate uses of each, based on empirical results. Additionally, they can successfully apply associated leadership techniques for their given organizational structures, as required.

  • Doctors know both major and minor theories and constructs of leadership, along with supporting concepts. Through research and consulting, they discover empirical results that support (or fail to support) the appropriate and inappropriate uses of each. Additionally, they can succesfully identify and apply associated leadership techniques for just about any given organizational structures, as required.

Friday, February 22, 2013