Leadership Emerging

Russ Volckmann

Leader’s Way coverHis Holiness the Dalai Lama and Laurens Van Den Muyzenberg. The Leader’s Way. Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2009.

How could you not want to read a collaboration between the Dalai Lama and a Dutch business consultant? The intrigue is even stronger when we discover that this book was in the making for nine years (1991-2000)—years of periodic meetings and consultations! And then another seven years of creating the book!

The result is an interestingly presented set of ideas in which the co-authors take turns, each providing comments or examples that illustrate or deepen the contributions of the other. If that isn’t enough to send you to your favorite source for reading material…well here are a few more tidbits.

Dalai Lama: “Why am I writing this book now? Because I feel we all should have a sincere concern and take responsibility for how the global economy operates, and an interest in the role of businesses in shaping our interconnectedness.” He encourages leaders of religious traditions to participate in the conversations about business and economics, reflecting his well-known penchant for knowledge in all fields. He points out Buddhism’s rational and logical approach, “There is a stress on human values and how we can be taught to take a holistic approach to solving society’s problem.”

In these times it is very difficult for businesspeople to make the right decisions. They must be competent and have right motivation and right state of mind. This emphasis on “right” predictably shows up throughout the book. And the result of right mind and right action is to alleviate suffering in the world.

Van Den Muyzenberg: In this book, “A clear emphasis has been placed on leadership. Change makers are not exclusively found among top management and leaders, and we encourage employees at all levels to find the leader within and to employ the practices in this book.” Further,

“True leaders have the ability to look at an issue from many perspectives and based on that expanded view, to make the right decisions. They have a calm, collected, and concentrated mind, undisturbed by negative thoughts and emotions, trained and focused. And true leadership recognizes the inevitability of change, the need for a sense of universal responsibility, and the importance of combining an economic system with moral values. That is the leader’s way.”

The essence of this message, grounded in Buddhism, is the importance of both the Right View and Right Conduct. Leadership is about both of these, throughout an organization or society. Right View involves having right motivation and intention. It also includes three dimensions of reality: “nothing exists that is permanent, everything changes; nothing exists that is independent; nothing exists without a cause.” Right Conduct is about quality of action. Both right View and Right Conduct are essential to producing trust that, in turn, leads to improved profits.

The remainder of this book goes much deeper into this approach, perspective, contribution from both authors. For example, the Dalai Lama addresses “The Six Perfections” that are “expressed as generosity, ethical discipline, patience, enthusiastic effort, concentration, and wisdom.” Co-author van den Muyzenberg offers reflections on this experiences with various meditation approaches. Both explore their views of what it means to create wealth, including responsibilities such as assuring that the needs of others are met as a way of easing suffering and not creating more, as seems to have been the case with corporate business in its push toward dominating globalization. To wit, the Dalai lama closes the book as follows:

Inequality in personal wealth is as old as civilized society. With the scientific knowledge, technology and understanding of the mechanisms of wealth generation now available, achieving a decent standard of living for all has become definitely within reach. My hope is that the ideas presented in this book will inspire many leaders and organizations to work with patience and enthusiastic effort toward reaching that goal.


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dan JenkinsDissertation Review/Gilchrist-“A Snapshot in Philosophical Practice:
How Executives Frame Openness in Public Higher Education”

Dan Jenkins
Integral Leadership Review Intern

Leigh Zimmerman Gilchrist’s 2007 dissertation, A Snapshot in Philosophical Practice: How Executives Frame Openness in Public Higher Education explores the relationship between leadership and mandated openness, specifically the “sunshine laws,” in higher education. In the simplest of terms, sunshine laws refer to state open meetings and open record laws that “require state’s public business be conducted in full view of the state’s citizens. As a public entity, public higher education operates in full light of the sunshine laws and as a result, is subject to a high level of scrutiny from key stakeholders. Through qualitative inquiry, this study addresses how executive leaders in higher education talk about openness, how the language they use differs from the language used by other important stakeholders when discussing openness, how openness affects educational operations and governance, and what internal and external elements influence how these executives frame openness.

Executive leaders in higher education are privy to decision making at the board level as well as discussions at the institutional level. Likewise, external stakeholders are equally invested in the developments, discussions, and outcomes of the institutions they represent or report. This study interviewed stakeholders involved in sunshine-related issues in higher education, including governing board chairs and vice-chairs, presidents, chancellors, and provosts of individual institutions, university attorneys, heads of faculty senates, university board secretaries, newspaper editors and education reporters, system and agency heads at the state level, state attorneys general, members of higher education committees in state legislatures, and other informed observers of a state’s sunshine laws. Based upon interview responses across all stakeholder groups, higher education executives prioritized the following elements considered critical for understanding openness personally and professionally: (a) culture/role expectations, (b) theory versus reality, and (c) metaphors and specific language of openness. Those interviewed also stressed the significance of the executive-media relationship between the executives and the journalists on issues surrounding compliance of institutions to both the spirit and letter of the law. Gilchrist criticizes the executive’s “narrow focus” on one culture as limiting the ability of their institution to react and respond to openness as an evolving feature of public life. She argues that, “…widening the scope of cultural consideration to include the state, political, institutional, legalistic, board, and journalistic cultures, the executives would in essence construct a cultural universe which enables them to better maneuver in the mandated open environment.”

The cultural universe in higher education is a pervasive gallimaufry of truly influential public expectations and internal and external forces. Executive leaders find themselves in a balancing act torn between competing tensions. To ease these tensions, executives must act to redefine their roles, views, attitudes, and behaviors in relation to openness. Reframing openness will lead to initiating long overdue dialogue and familiarization with the plethora of perspectives on openness held by stakeholders.

Gilchrist envisions a cultural universe of openness defined by a quasi-utopian, universal, and integral society stretching leadership to capture organizational dimensions. In it, executives’ feelings of victimization will be replaced by feelings of empowerment and collaboration and the rhetoric of fear and attack will be replaced by rhetoric of action and satisfaction. Thus, the executive leader in higher education must understand that openness is both different in each stakeholder’s frame and that he/she must look at openness through each of these frames to truly embrace an inclusive and integral cultural universe.

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leadership energy coverDavid Conttrell, Leadership Energy (E=MC2). Dallas, TX: Cornerstone leadership institute, 2008.

From an author who is a world spiritual leader (the Dalai Lama) we turn toto an author who links the phenomenon of leadership to a world science/thought leader (Albert Einstein). Yes, the link is to Einstein and his theory of relativity, as well as drawing on quotations from him. Sample:

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.

But let’s be clear up front. This book appears to be a marketing piece for a training firm. Well, one might ask, what book isn’t marketing something! True, and I just wanted to get that out of the way.

Contrell points out that Einstein proposed that “mass and energy are two forms of the same thing, and that neither appears without the other.” He draws on this notion to identify aspects of leading that energize organizations. Organizational energy is seen as a product of commitment, mission and values. It is the role of leaders to tap into and release this energy.

The formula in the book title breaks down this way:
E=organizational energy
M=people within the organization
C2=energy of those leading and the multiplier effect that has on the organization.

The energy of leaders is conducted by
• Synchronization
• Speed
• Communication
• Customer Focus
• Integrity

Negative energy is also accounted for that drains energy from an organization. I was reminded of Adizes’ life cycle model of organizations that points out that at each stage in its development there is an option between renewal and decay.

Each chapter has a set of core ideas or principles. For example, associated with Mass are

• Team energy is dependent upon the ratio of energizers to sappers.
• A shift in organizational culture occurs when you achieve critical mass—when enough individuals change their attitude, thinking and behavior.
• The best leaders are also the best followers.
• Organizational energy increases when the forward momentum of energizers exceeds the negative effects of the energy sappers.
• People support what they help create.
• Leadership focus and direction create energy. Leadership chaos drains organizational change.

The rest of the book is filled with “shoulds” about creating energy, integrity and so on. Worth the buy? Maybe. But be prepared for another take on a lot of other material that is already out there. And, just maybe, the presentation is intriguing enough that those who are too busy to read might enjoy it and find value.

Appropriately, the closing quote from Einstein reads,

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

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John R. Pisapia,The Strategic Leader: New Tacticsw for a Globalizing World. Charlotte, North Carolina: Information Age Publishing, 2009.

This works begins with the idea that it “reveals the art and science of resolving the vision-reality dilemma in an increasingly complex world. Further it organizes the subject of leadership around six habits:

• Artistry
• Agility
• Anticipating
• Articulating
• Aligning
• Assuring.

These are explored within three central themes:

“First, leadership is almost always situated within an environmental context and leaders must be trained to understand and address strategic themes emanating from that context.”

I must admit that I do not understand why this is “almost always.” When is it not?

“Second strategic leaders employ a holistic individual, team and organizational learning process that I characterize as the Leadership Wheel to keep their organization position within its environment.” The last four bullets above constitute the habits of the Leadership Wheel.

“Finally, strategic leaders are involved in a constant cycle of leading and managing, sometimes simultaneously.” This seems to favor the notion that leader and manager are distinct roles. I will leave it to you to see how these might be performed simultaneously.

The author provides a definition of leaders: people who can define and then move individuals, groups, and/or organizations from A to Z.” Doesn’t this sound familiar—like all of its heroic leader predecessors?

But Pisipia goes on, “In the postmodern condition, leaders must shift from an over-reliance on the command and control (hierarchical) skills of the twentieth century, to a greater reliance of the coordinative and collaborative (horizontal) skill necessary to practice their craft in the twenty-first century.”

Now for strategic leadership: “the ability (as well as the wisdom) to make consequential decisions about ends, actions and tactics in ambiguous environments. Strategic leadership marries management with leadership, politics with ethics, and strategic intent with tactics and actions.” Thus, the leader role is directly tied for formal position in the organization. Yet he states that the traditional heroic approach to leading no longer applies. Rather high performers practice leading by “a) using a holistic learning approach, b) managing and leading simultaneously, understanding the omnipresent nature of politics and ethics in organizational life, and (d) seeing as their main purpose as the development of a high performing organization.”

Artistry and Agility are achieve by

•Artistically using a palette opf managerial, transformation, political and ethical actions to create frame breaking or frame sustaining change.
• Agility of the mind; [sic] as well as actions.
• Anticipating changes, challenges, and opportunities in internal and external environments.
• Articulating a statement of strategic intent through a generative/minimum specifications approach.
• Aligning people and organizations by viewing followers as colleagues and developing the social capital necessary to mobilize them.
• Assuring results and learning by anchoring the learning in committed self managed teams.

Conttrell discusses a shift in worldviews that is happening from a mechanical view that is being challenged by increasing complexity with a corresponding worldview that what we create ius the result of a network of relationships, a web, really, impacting the environment and the organization. This requires an understanding of the co-evolution of the parts and the organization and the meta culture and meta systems of which they are a part.

Each chapter has appended a set of “Cliff notes” that allows for quick access to key ideas. The book is chock full of useful ideas, ones that could have been so much more robust with a developmental, integral frame of reference.