After reviewing “The Leadership Dilemma” article, choose one of the obstacles from the article and examine it in greater detail. What have you learned about leadership through your professional experiences and educational training that might help others overcome this obstacle? Provide at least two workable suggestions.
Seven Steps to Making a Difference for the World
Dr. Leo P. Corriveau, Plymouth State University
Step 1: Preparation for Leadership
In some fundamental sense, we can not learn how to have relationships, how to raise kids, how to lead others – how to be human, if you will. Why? Because to a great extent it is the very condition of not knowing, of being vulnerable to and surprised by life, of being unable to manage or control our lovers, our children, or our colleagues that makes us human. (Farson, 40)
We can not begin to accept the responsibility of leadership without first acknowledging our humanity, both in its limits and its marvels. The first task in knowing that humanity is to come to terms with the limitations that being human places upon us and, paradoxically, by accepting these limitations we free ourselves to receive the boundless riches that human existence holds for each of us. We who lead cannot afford the self congratulation which comes from seeing ourselves above the fray of human striving, nor can we allow ourselves to be fooled by the skewed vision that such egotism affords. Instead, if we are to be worthy of guiding others, we must first have the strength to accept our own human failings for we cannot see the truth in others until we see the truth in ourselves.
Bennis writes, “To become a leader, then, you must become yourself, become the maker of your own life”. He observes that knowing thyself is “the most difficult task any of us faces. But until you truly know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, know what you want to do and why you want to do it, you cannot succeed in any but the most superficial sense of the word.” (Kouzes, 59)
Bennis is doing more than simply encouraging us to become the “captain of our own ship”. The making of a life in the truest sense happens from the inside out and not from the outside in. We are, many times, so busy becoming who we think we need to be (or should be) that we often ignore that faint voice of the true self within our soul. The choice to reconcile that faint inner voice with the cacophony of the outer world and to balance the two within our human being takes courage to begin, determination to continue, and humility to accept the truths that unfold. Such a life journey will in the end afford you a sense of who you are, your place in the world, and that you belong where you have chosen to be.
Our best qualities are integrity, dedication, magnanimity, humility, openness, and creativity. These, of course, are the basic ingredients of leadership, and our unwillingness to tap these qualities in ourselves explains, to a large extent, the leadership shortage. (Bennis, 117)
“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” Each human being is filled with the great qualities of the human race. The choice to use those qualities or more precisely to answer to their demands is not easy and, many times, is contradictory to our own sense of self preservation. There will always be a shortage of leaders because the way of the honorable leader is strewn with the choice between “doing what is right for me” and “doing what is right for all”. To lead with honor is to accept one’s responsibility to do what is right for all, to uphold one’s faith in the goodness of humankind, and to do so with full knowledge of the probable cost to one’s self.
Step 2: The Notion of Trust
Being seen as someone who can be trusted, who has high integrity, and who is honest and truthful is essential. But if you have a sense that the person is not being honest, you will not accept the message, and you will not willingly follow. So the credibility check can reliably be simplified to just one question: “Do I trust this person?” (Kouzes, 24)
People who choose to follow do so as much for emotional reasons as for rational ones. Trust is one of those “gut feelings”. Trusting someone does not mean that we assume they will make no mistakes. On the contrary, trust implies that when that person does make mistakes that those errors were made from a position of honor and integrity. We choose to follow because we trust at a “gut level” not that they are always going to be right but instead, that they are always seeking to do what is right.
Leaders must reach out and attend to all their constituents if they wish to be credible. Credibility, like quality and service, is determined by the constituents, so leaders must be able to view themselves as their constituents do. It requires effort and new skills; one benefit is that a natural by-product of attending to other people is that they in turn come to trust us and we trust them. (Kouzes, 90)
Trust in leadership is not created by those who lead it is given by those who follow.
Step 3: Focus & Clarity
As perspective is vital to the painter or writer, it is vital to leaders and their associates. (Bennis, 158)
Perspective, it should be remembered, is from a single point or position and therefore there are as many perspectives of what is seen as there are positions to see it from. Artists must be able to visualize how others see differently from different positions and more importantly, how others see differently from the exact same position as the artist. So too, must leaders. It should also be remembered that what the artist “sees” not only comes from what they empirically observe but from what they feel in their heart and what resonates in their soul. So too, must leaders.
Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” (Bennis, 154)
Leadership is about living the vision. To create the pathway between the present and the future for others to follow we must be the bridge which connects the two. This can only be done by consciously living our vision of the future in the present moment.
All leaders see in a special way … Leaders never confuse that which is real with that which is reality … Furthermore, leaders know that what we see is completely a matter of choice. But beyond all that, leaders know that how we see and what we see are exactly the same. (Cook, 41)
What “is” is. How we see it (interpret it), however, is a matter of our own choosing. We all have elected at one time or another to look the other way when faced with harsh facts of what “is”. Intellectually or emotionally it is many times an understandable necessity for survival. But it therefore also follows that we can choose to change the depth of our intellectual and emotional vision and see beyond the constraints of what we perceive to be our present reality. Leaders need to have the courage to say as Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream.”
Step 4: Commitment
A Chinese proverb is useful in this regard: “Tell me, I may listen. Teach me, I may remember. Involve me, I will do it.” (Kouzes, 146)
Commitment is not possible to attain without caring. Caring is never about the outside it always about the inside. Until a leader creates a way for people to feel involved they will not be able to generate the emotional linkage between involvement, caring, and committing.
One of the most common mistakes made in attempting to create shared values is announcing which are most important and should guide the department (or company). Instead leaders must cast the net widely to capture the broadest possible understanding of constituents’ values. Participation is vital, for people’s perspectives change once they are involved. If the key question asked is “what principles should we have?” merely rhetorical statements will result, (Kouzes, 125)
The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. As more parts are added, the identity of the whole will change. All parts of the whole share in this identity and each newly added part changes how all of the parts share that common identity. This identity therefore needs to remain dynamic in order to remain authentic. Stasis (balance) of the whole is maintained by the constant change in the relationship between the parts to maintain identity. Interference from outside the system will result in an imbalance that the parts cannot efficiently respond to since they respond best to changes within the authentic identity that they all share.
The creation of the shared vision of an organization must respond to these system principles.
Creating a shared vision honoring these principles will strengthen and increase commitment. If a leader wants to be a part of this system he/she must join as a “part of the whole” in order to keep the process authentic.
… for a strong community and for strong and vibrant organizations, we must be willing to make other people’s problems our own and to live them together. (Kouzes, 129)
Empathy receives a lot of lip service. It is easy to “talk the talk” but much tougher to “walk the walk”. If a leader says, “I believe in you, how can I help?” they had better be willing to put their heart and soul where their mouth is. People commit to leader who has made a commitment to them.
Step 5: Marshalling Resources
We have all seen leaders who successfully move from one organization to another even though they may not be expert in the second organization’s business. They are able to do this because they define their task as evoking the knowledge skills and creativity of those who are already within the organization. They are secure enough in their own identities to be able to be influenced by new information and to accept the ideas of others in the group. They are especially able to elicit the intelligence and participation of group members who otherwise might not join in. (Farson, 145)
Most people know how to solve their own problems they just can’t seem to get around to it. Many times what they appreciate and need is a little encouragement in getting started. Leadership then becomes a matter of pointing out (hopefully with kindness) that the reason they have trouble moving forward is because they are stepping on their own feet.
How do we identify and develop such innovators? How do we spot new information in institutions, organizations, and professions? Innovators, like all creative people, see things differently; think in fresh and original ways. They have useful contacts in other areas, other institutions; they are seldom seen as good organization men or women and often viewed as mischievous troublemakers. The true leader not only is him- or herself an innovator but makes every effort to locate and use other innovators in the organization. He or she creates a climate in which conventional wisdom can be questioned and challenged and one in which errors are embraced rather than shunned in favor of safe, low-risk goals. (Bennis, 29 – 30)
If doing things the same old way was the best adaptation to change dinosaurs would still alive. Limiting resources to what has always been in the past limits the possibility of what can be in the future. Life demands fresh and original ideas. Leaders welcome that which is fresh and original because to do so is to welcome life into their cause.
If people of authority are to succeed, they must know themselves and listen to themselves, integrating their ideals and actions but being able, at the same time, to tolerate the gap between the desirable and the necessary as they work to close it. They must know how to not merely listen but hear, not merely look but see, to play as hard as they work, and to live with ambiguity and inconsistency. The ultimate test of anyone in authority is whether he or she can successfully ride and direct the tides of change and, in doing so, grow stronger. As Sophocles said, “It is hard to learn the mind of any mortal, or the heart, till he be tried in chief authority. Power shows the man” (Antigone). And the thoughtful, imaginative, and effective use of power is what separates leaders from people in authority. (Bennis, 156)
There is no greater resource for leaders than to know they can trust the internal compass that guides their being. That although there will be times of doubt and indecision, if granted the needed time it will find a way to point true. In the course of events there will be much need to hear outside council, to see what cannot be turned away from, to laugh with what life presents, and to accept the doubt and regret that is part of being human. But when all of this is done it is to one’s inner self that leaders must return and know in their heart that their internal compass pointed true and that from it they chose an honorable course.
Step 6: Achievement & Celebration
Leadership can be felt throughout an organization. It gives pace and energy to the work and empowers the work force. Empowerment is the collective effect of leadership. In organizations with effective leaders, empowerment is most evident in four themes:
1. People feel significant.
2. Learning and competence matter.
3. People are part of a community.
4. Work is exciting. (Bennis, 23)
People need to believe that what they do matters. They need to feel a sense of gratification for a job well done. There very few, if any external motivations, that will create the will to achieve as well as the internal knowledge that what they are trying to do is recognized as something that makes a difference.
“[Your goal is] not to achieve wholeness by suppressing diversity, not to make wholeness impossible by enthroning diversity, but to preserve both. Each element in the diversity must be respected, but each must ask itself sincerely what it can contribute to the whole. I don’t think it is venturing beyond the truth to say that “wholeness incorporating diversity” defines the transcendent task for your generation.” (Kouzes, 124,125)
We are all striving to find our individual selves as well as find our place among others. We as leaders must encourage this process to be open and honest both to each individual and between all who are together. We must find ways each day to enable people to quietly celebrate each others’ unique contribution to what we have achieved together.
Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity. Once everyone has come to see it that way, they can exchange their combative posture for a creative stance, because they don’t feel threatened, they feel challenged. (Bennis, 158)
If we are to achieve, we need to celebrate the arrival of the opportunity to try. This does not mean that we are blind to the effort, hardship and disappointment that may lie along the journeys that such opportunities provide for us. But along with these harsh realities, we use our faith in our abilities and that of our peers to acknowledge the strengths that we have together. As long as we are willing to be a part of that mutual creative strength we know that we are not alone and can rely on the agreements and disagreements of our peers to move forward towards what we need to achieve.
Step 7: Renewal
We must learn how to harness the commitment of our people – then our commitment to building a better world will have some meaning … This requires a new paradigm, a new model of how organizations work – organizations that operate in a continual learning mode, creating change. (Senge, 348 – 349)
Organizations are given life through the people within them. Therefore in order to create change in an organization there must a way to create change in the individual. It is not enough to do what has always been successful, individually or organizationally, because the possibilities of learning then stagnate and become barriers to rather than liberators of human thought. As leaders we must be willing to enable others to seek out their own liberators of human thought and use those moments to refresh and renew themselves, each other, and the vision they all share.
Choice is different from desire. Try an experiment. Say, “I want.” Now, say, “I choose.” What is the difference? For most people, “I want is passive; “I choose” is active. For most wanting is a state if deficiency – we want what we do not have. Choosing is a state of sufficiency – electing to have what we truly want. For most of us, as we look back over our life, we can see that certain choices we made are played a pivotal role in how our life developed. So too, will the choices we make in the future be pivotal. (Senge, 360)
Choice is part of renewal. We cannot renew without making an active choice to do so. We can (and do) want many things but it is when we make the choice to pursue one option and put aside others that the chance of renewal becomes available to us. We must then accept that we need to leave behind what is past, no matter how comfortable, and choose to move on.
To search for understanding, knowing there is no ultimate answer, becomes a creative process – one which involves rationality but also something more … Einstein said, that “the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” (Senge, 282 – 283)
Our work is never done. That is both good and bad news. The possibilities are so vast though that one need never tire of looking to the stars and searching for ways to touch them.
Farson, Management of the Absurd
Kouzes and Posner, Credibility
Warren Bennis, Why Leaders Can’t Lead
Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline
William Cook, Strategics
Arthur M. Young, The Theory of Process
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