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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Leaders, Greed, and Envy

Effective Leaders 

 Leadership is not something that separates one person from the next in a given organization; instead, it is something that unites them. All too often, it has been suggested that a great leader stands apart from the rest of the organization. It is my belief that such a suggestion can only be made by somebody who has never functioned effectively in a top leadership role. Great leaders are the ones that recognize any organization is a product of all the people within it, and that leadership is based entirely upon the willing consent of those who comprise the organization.

 Genuine leadership arrives from the desire and willpower to become an effective leader. The great ones develop these skills through a never ending process of self-study, education, training, and experience. It is unthinkable to suggest that education is not part of the equation. If that were true, then why would every major power, government, or corporation throughout history insist on advancing the education of their leaders? Why would governments and corporations invest so heavily in executive education if it was deemed to be of little value? These questions serve to underscore the universal truth that education is one of the most critical building blocks upon which great leadership is derived.

 Education obviously provides the leader with a more expansive breadth of knowledge and a diverse background from which to consider key issues and devise appropriate strategies. It is also associated with extended critical thought, scientific methodologies, and investment in quantitative and qualitative analysis; skills that are increasingly critical to organizational success.

 The basic precept that leadership requires the consent of those who are being led has a correlation to the willingness of highly educated people to accept the leadership of those who have not made the sacrifices required to attain similar levels of education. This is, essentially, seen by those whom they would propose to lead as a blatant devaluation of their intellectual capital; not well received by investors in intellectual capital. In most corporate, scientific, and leading edge research environments, there are certain minimum requirements that must be met; that mechanism tends to mitigate vast knowledge gaps that, in turn, could create issues in the realm of leadership.

Good leaders are made not born. If you have the desire and willpower, you can become an effective leader. Good leaders develop through a never ending process of self-study, education, training, and experience 
~ Jago 


Leaders And Followers 

 The need for freely offered support and a willingness to follow extends not just to the top leadership team, but to everyone in the organization. Fred Smith, founding chairman of Federal Express, once commented that by no means were all of his company’s 260,000 people leaders, nor that they even had the potential to be leaders. But those who were leaders, including himself, depended absolutely upon the rest of the 260,000 to get the job done. This applies equally to any organization. One of the most important dicta of leadership in any military leadership institution is "Do not give an order unless you know it will be obeyed". It is a dictum which speaks to the willingness to be led even in an organization where very severe punishment can arise from failure to follow orders.

 The Arab Spring is a glittering example of what happens when people no longer consent to leadership by an individual or group. The movement is exemplified by people who are willing to pay the ultimate price to abolish leadership that has been unwillingly extracted. The downfall of Tunisia's President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the downfall of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, and the downfall of Libya's Muammer Gaddafi are recent examples of consent refusal. The Arab Spring is not yet over; and submission to leadership extracted unwillingly, it seems, creates an incredibly difficult challenge because, as we have seen, some of these dictators have been willing to unleash tremendous violence in order to retain their power.

The worst tyrants rule with the consent of those they govern – even if that consent is extracted unwillingly 
~ Kets de Vries 


Leaders Are Made Not Born 

 To understand the fallacy of born leadership, the annuls of history provide ample records from which to draw; none more prolific than royalty. In observance of royal traditions, leaders are born. So long as some amount of luck and providence might apply, combined with the best education and training possible, subjects may come to know the blessing of a born leader who receives not only willing consent, but who inspires the confidence of their people. We see this in Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The very precept upon which a monarch, such as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, stands on to this very day, is the recognition of their subservience to God. They bow on bent knee to the Master of the Universe, hence the role of defender of the faith taking a paramount place in the ritual of enthronement for the United Kingdom.

 Upon this threshold of celestial power, the basis of moral leadership is enshrined. One might expect the same for all the Kingdoms of the World, but it has not always proven to be so. When royal leadership has faltered, the cause is most often drawn back to the morality of decisions taken.

"In making judgments, the Early Kings were perfect, because they made moral principles the starting point of all their undertakings and the root of everything that was beneficial. This principle, however, is something that persons of mediocre intelligence never grasp. Not grasping it, they lack awareness, and lacking awareness, they pursue profit. But while they pursue profit, it is absolutely impossible for them to be certain of attaining it." 
~ Lu Bu-wei 246 B.C. Chinese Prime Minister under Emperor Ying Zheng 


Leaders And Corporate Greed 

 In corporate environments, the ethos of leadership control is vested in the ability of top leaders to promote and enrich their followers, this has given rise to the unmitigated levels of corporate greed; a most unpleasant subject finally being taken up by a society that rejects and abhors unchecked greed and finds the growing disparity of wealth to be entirely repulsive.

 The sketch of leadership stretching across the millennia arrives at our current station with some number of challenges. Some who are born of leadership assume it with grace and dignity and surround themselves with those who have worked hard to become great leaders; drawing upon the expertise of such people to guide their leadership. They have learned to use the wisdom of others as a graceful scepter. Some are born of leadership learning only to extract subservience through violence; this serves them only to a point.

 For most of us, the great leaders we know are made and not born... but how do they arise to the top of their career ladders? How is it that some great leaders never arise past a certain level? Is it because their greatness is overrated or could it be due to obstacles placed in front of them by the levers of greed inspired by lesser people? Could it be that a huge rush of great leadership focused on correcting the misguided corporate inequities of the day is, in fact, thwarted by nothing more than the power of greed itself?

The wheel of greed applied to corporate profit, wealth inequity, and political reform


  The relentless pursuit of profits results in a tremendous amount of capital being made available for corporate leadership to disseminate. This leads to vast payouts and typically results in a substantial disparity of wealth. In turn, this disparity of wealth, and the uncontrolled spiral of wealth accumulation, has caused in some part, the necessity for massive layoffs and corporate bailouts. Once the corporate bailouts are placed upon the backs of taxpayers, it incites public backlash.

 Because soft money exerts substantial influence over political campaigns, the legislative branch remains beholden to the influence of the fabulously wealthy. Corporate interests influence political leadership through contributions and, this in turn, has a substantial influence upon elections. This, in turn, reduces the proclivity of incumbents to disassociate themselves from their financial backers. The legislative process becomes obviously influenced, which in turn, links back to the status quo. The entire circle is both repeatable and predictable.

 The core problem is those who profit from the status quo are able to influence what may or may not be done to modify the status quo. In other words, it seems logical that scientific management should entail the quest for logical and empirical facts and embrace their unprejudiced and objective analysis. Upon this foundation, policy and administration should be enacted. This does not occur because of an uncompromising maintenance of the status quo and, more accurately, because of the financial power that holds sway over the status quo. At the end of the day, who is going to vote to give themself a huge pay decrease? This is a question which holds a reply that is self evident and has precipitated much political strife.

There are two levers to set a man in motion, fear and self-interest 
~ Napoleon Bonaparte 


Growth and Envy 

 Another difficult problem with leadership is often uncovered when leadership groups are comprised of individuals with great disparity of ability. This often brings forward the emotion of envy. Not jealousy, as that emotion involves losing something one may already have. Envy, on the other hand, is the desire to have something another person has or feeling as though one does not measure up to another. The age old act of comparing to others creates predictable outcomes, one of them is growth; another is envy.

 Let us first examine growth... upon this pillar we find most of the time tested precepts of great leadership. Valued growth can be sustained by effective leadership mechanisms. All of the actions of a healthy leadership group centre around growth. Growth under the guidance of moral and capable people creates the most cherished outcomes of good leadership.  Rejection of envy and embracing growth facilitates many positive outcomes.


 The flipside is an organization where envy proliferates. This is often caused by failure to build a strengths based organization, exacerbated by leadership teams with substantial qualification inequities. It is, perhaps, more rarified to see this particular state in Fortune 500 corporations or in leading edge scientific endeavors where leadership is assumed primarily from within the ranks of qualified personnel. It is, obviously, more prevalent in organizations where a large disparity of qualifications exist by virtue of organizational design.

 In shaping a strengths based organization, one builds upon individual strengths or passions, attempting to create a balance where each leader is accepted due to their expertise and wisdom related to a specific area of assignment. Ignoring the powerful emotion of envy is almost certain to result in lost capacity due to the fallout from schadenfreude, or the pleasure derived from the misfortune of others; the most aggressive form of envy.

What cowardice it is to be dismayed by the happiness of others and devastated by their good fortune 
~ Montesquieu 



Inspirational Leadership

 A leader is someone who inspires a following. Those who wish to become great leaders are faced with one incontrovertible truth, the road to leadership is one with many obstacles and it requires commitment and sacrifice to obtain the skills necessary to become a leader. Groups will only willingly follow leaders, they will not follow managers without the perquisite skills to be a leader.  While it is true that willingness to follow may be inspired by threats or intimidation, such tactics function to send the best and most promising leaders to seek employment elsewhere. As mentioned above, while it is true that some organizational structures may leverage coercion that requires people to follow leaders, in a free society, such tactics will never succeed.

 On the grass roots level, the budding leader must recognize that a genuine leader never seeks to oppress those who wish to learn from their abilities, but rather, they wish to create success for others. There is nothing more gratifying for a leader than to see their protégés elevated in the organization or even in other organizations. This is the basis of genuine reward for a great leader.

 If an individual desires the following that a great leader has, but the group does not follow them and, instead, follows their chosen leader, the envious person will likely be disposed to attack that leader in an attempt to destroy or remove them. That path results in diminished organizational capacity because followers, and the attacked leader, will often seek to find other organizations or other departments within the same organization that prosper through the bounty of genuine leadership.

The best leaders in the world will fail unless they have the trust and willing support of those around them 
~ Witzel 


 Moral Leadership 

 Understanding yourself, your motives, and your moral compass elevates leadership. One of the self evident truths of life is that there will always be those who have greater skills. The great leader recognizes the skill sets of their followers and they embrace those skills. They draw attention to the special skills of their followers and elevate them as integral components of a more successful organization. The weak leader views this as a threat to their own position. Thus, the two waterfalls of leadership, one filled with insecurity, the other with hard work, dedication, sacrifice, and adherence to certain moral values.

 As has always been the case, the leader given to act based on a strong sense of self confidence and grounded with solid moral values, will be able to take decisive action with relative ease. This is done in accordance with the knowledge that what is right must be acted upon. What must be acted upon should be acted upon without hesitation, and thus a perceived ability to take decisive action.

When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier 
~ Roy Disney

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