Notes From the Field: Conference Review: International Leadership Association 10th Anniversary Conference

Yung-Pin Lu

Yung-Pin LuThe International Leadership Association (ILA) 10th anniversary conference was held in Los Angeles, California, United States of America, on November 12-15th 2008. “Global Leadership: Portraits of the Past, Visions for the Future” was the topic of this conference with 900+ participants and 100+ simultaneous sessions facilitated by presenters from all around the world. Due to the size of this conference, this short review could not cover all of the sessions and events. The conference promoted a deeper understanding of leadership in both theoretical and practical parts from a global perspective and provided a great number of networking opportunities with people on a wide range of leadership research, programs, trends, education, training and consulting.

The first keynote speaker, Christine Loh, is a former elected member of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of the independent, non-profit public policy think tank, Civic Exchange. She articulated a current global trend of the new relationship between Asia and the United States as well as other countries around the world, especially the relationship with China in her topic, “Global Leadership: Perspective from Asia’s Rise.” This relationship is becoming much stronger than before and there are more Asian countries attending the G20 meeting to discuss the global issues. The world can not disregard this trend and has to try harder to find better ways to cooperate with each other soon. Today, China has become the biggest owner of United States government bonds and is helping the American government to solve the economic crisis. In other words, the United States government and Chinese government have not only to work together looking for the win-win situation, but also to become a partnership. This new situation also brings new questions. How do people get through the new global trend? How do people help each other to open minds to have a dialogue and communicate? How can communication be facilitated between your leader and our leader? How can leaders tell the truth and go through the painful times by communicating for change? These questions are not easy to answer, yet people better start to figure them out as soon as possible.

Understanding people’s “Global Mindsets” might be a good starting point to help each other have open minds for communication and dialogue from the perspective of individual profiles of the global view. Dr. Mansour Javidan, Dean of Research and the Garvin Distinguished Professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, indicated that Global Mindset is the ability to influence individuals, groups, organizations and systems to create understanding and learning opportunities for people to improve their cooperation through developing themselves first. Dr. Javidan believes that being comfortable in an uncomfortable environment is an ability required to have a higher Global Mindset score. In current findings of the research, those scoring high in Global Mindsets have a higher frequency in a part of the brain than do people who have scored lower on the Global Mindset. However, the Global Mindset still can not answer all the questions to be a good global leader. How do global leaders affect and influence their people? How relevant is the Global Mindset to individuals and the entire organization? How relevant is the Global Mindset to global leaders and global leadership? How do people improve their Global Mindsets in individual, group and organizational levels? Does an individual who has a higher score in the Global Mindset have higher potential to become a good global leader or have better qualities of global leadership than a lower scoring person?

Michele Ehlers, co-founder of the Transformational Global Leadership Network, addressed the differences between a national, an international and a global concept. Global leaders have not only to see beyond current paradigms out of the box, but to see a vision without the box. The idea of thinking globally and acting locally has transformed thinking and acting globally at the same time. A good leader or global leaders must try to change the mindset or Global Mindset from both sides and from the subjective to objective perspective as in the approach of Robert Kegan. Changing people’s mindset, saving people’s lives and creating their future are all part of the transformational process and activities in which a good leader or global leader must participate.

Frances Hesselbein, the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Leader to Leader Institute (formerly the Peter E. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management) and its founding president, is one who was awarded honors for the ILA Lifetime Achievement Award in the Leadership Legacy Project. She maintained that the best leadership is to touch people in their lives and become a model for them to lead them further. She believes that leadership is how to be and not how to do. When leaders do not want and think they want to become a leader and just want to care for other people, then these people become good leaders from their hearts. She encouraged people to think of leadership as a life-long journey; therefore shining a light and serving the journey of life are the keys to leadership.

Ronald Riggio, from Kravis Leadership Institute and the co-author of Transformational Leadership with Bernard M. Bass, continued this philosophy from Frances Hesselbein. He presented a workshop focusing on using two instruments, the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) and Social Skills Inventory (SSI), as tools for leadership development. Even though this cross instrument research is at the beginning level, the results of this study show that social skills might be a key to help people be good leaders. Social skills are a complex constellation of ability which creates relationship with other people. Measuring leaders’ social skills may foster an understanding of how they care about other people and how they behave with people around. Although the concept of improving leader’s social communication skills may be a good idea to help develop and transform their leadership, people have to be very careful during the process to improve this idea to the universal level. It might be better if researchers mention the assumptions, limitations and delimitations of their study before their announcement of the idea. However, self-awareness usually is an important part of the life-long leadership journey.

Kathy Kolbe, author of “Powered by Instinct: 5 Rules for Trusting Your Guts,” emphasized how important self awareness is in leadership development. She believes self-awareness is the beginning step to increasing personal well-being by unlocking the individual’s authentic, creative self. Three parts of mind, cognitive thinking, affective feeling and connotative help people characterize themselves during the self-awareness process. How can leaders know who they are? However, being a good leader and self-awareness is not good enough, because good leaders need to be who they are and also need to become who their followers or the society respect and expect them to be.

The definition of good leadership may be different in other societies or culture. Zhongying Cheng, a professor from University of Hawaii at Manoa, expressed leadership from an eastern viewpoint of Chinese philosophy: Confucian Global Leadership in the Chinese Tradition—Classical and Contemporary. Confucian philosophy articulates that leadership is achieved by self-cultivation (self-development) and self-discipline (self-awareness) so that humanizing relations and communities could be established to enlarge the circles of relationships by humanizing individuals. Zhongying Cheng tried to explore and redefine the classical Confucianism to a Modernized Confucian Model from the political leadership viewpoint. He concluded that the engaging with the dialectics between centrality and harmony, as well as common good and diversity of peoples in leadership, is the better way to become a good political leader.

“We should be very careful when we read the books of a president or a hero,” the presenter announced in the session of “New Work on Leadership and the Humanities, Politics, and Psychology.” People should not just copy the recommendations from those books when reading and using them in their current challenges and decision-making without understanding deeply the relevant parts of the culture, contexts, patterns and situations. They must also understand where the people are, where their relationships are established and how politics is created by people, themselves. In other words, people cannot be good leaders without understanding politics and power issues. However, understanding the political and power issues are not enough to become a good leader. Leaders have to go outside of the original box to review the political leadership. It is not the one-man leadership; it is the collective leadership. Again, the self-awareness to understand who we are deeply matters.

What are some key conditions for effective partnering? What makes leadership particularly essential in multi-sector partnering? What makes leadership partnership so difficult? How do we change from one mental model to other mental models? How do we serve with our partners? What are some of the learning approaches and tools that can be most effective in building leadership capacity? These questions were raised by Alain Gauthier, the executive director of Core Leadership Development, sharing lessons and questions from work with a global foundation and United Nations agencies, as well as from a recent global survey of Integral Leadership development programs, which focus on cross-sector approaches to societal transformation. His philosophy of being a good leader is that it enables each partner to grow personally while generating benefits for the whole that could not have been produced otherwise. The integrative viewpoint of leadership becomes the important part for leaders and leadership development. Lillas Hatala articulated this significant issue again in building a foundation for personal, interpersonal, and organizational success. “The process of becoming a leader is much the same as becoming an integrated human being,” she said. The people (integrative leaders) and processes (leadership) are two main considerations.

During the session on “Executive Coaching: Best Practices for Leaders and Organizations,” applications for improving leadership and enhancing talent development were addressed, as well as the nature, role and influence of executive coaching in organizational effectiveness. This panel discussion included Priscila D. Nelson, John H. Zenger, Gina Hernez-Broome, and David B. Peterson. They provided five key components of executive coaching:

  1. Improving learning and finding out the future of what people care about and want to do.
  2. Good coaches have to facilitate people growing and building a partnership with their clients. The biggest challenge of this component is this partnership, which is a developing relationship.
  3. Facilitating clients to empower their power and decision-making.
  4. Teams have to have motivation. So, looking for motivation is the challenge of this component.

One-on-one processing to facilitate people understanding that they need to be learners will result in their having more impact on their followers and organizations. However, coaches are not experts and clients are. How can coaches read from and learn with their clients and develop the relationship quickly? How do coaches measure their clients? Talking about the issues to explore with clients more specifically and in detail usually helps. This can be a good beginning moment to see how they will like to work and move forward to the next step. Being a cheerleader, seeing the jobs from the integral view, and coaching the processes are the good things to put in the coaching work. Giving clients what they suggest and let them learn, piece by piece and step by step, one has to be very careful in the coaching process to educate clients as well.

“Coaching is more art than science,” said John H. Zenger. Yet, “Coaching can be both art and science,” said David B. Peterson. People and leaders have to figure out needs in invisible and visible contexts through critical thinking between art and science. “Coaching is one thing that is dependent upon the context and need,” said Gina Hernez-Broome. The best of executive coaching is to create a language window for only one issue at a time and then improve this window to serve the entire company. What is the most important thing to do? What do you really love to do? This gives clients their power back to create and practice in the language window, and then discover goals, values and challenges to change step by step. The conclusion of this session is that everyone is motivated, but they may not be motivated to what you want. This is not about the assumption, it is about how coaches can do a good job or not to discover the win-win situations.

It was a successful conference with people from all around the world with different backgrounds and fields of expertise. The entire context of sessions, workshops, keynote speakers, and Lifetime Achievement Awards met the topic of this conference successfully. A lot of portraits of the past and visions for the future of global leadership still have many questions waiting for answers. There are a lot of topics that were discussed during each session. However, people still have to be very careful how they use the terms of “leader,” “leadership,” “transformational leader,” “transforming,” and “transformational leadership.” The study of leadership is not easy. More and more people are looking for other leadership models then only focusing on one leadership theory and realizing the leadership theories which we have are not good enough for facing new challenges in the future. Studying a complex culture, context and challenge will never be an easy job, especially for cross-boundary and cross-field studies and filling the gap between the leadership theories and leadership realities. People usually like simple more than complex, but the most difficult challenge that people have to face is using the simple to explain the complex. This could create misunderstanding and misuse of concepts and theories when people only care about the simple. It is extremely dangerous to use, teach, coach, educate and mentor the simple concepts of leadership, only from experiences of the past without understanding the context of leadership and being humble enough to learn new visions leadership. Each situation and consideration requires a new understanding of leadership.

Yung-Pin Lu (Malcolm) is currently a doctoral student in leadership studies at Marian University and plans to finish his degree in 2009. He also has a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Dubuque in Iowa, and a bachelor’s degree in Commercial Design from the Ming Chuan University in Taiwan. His dissertation focuses on the relationship between leadership theory and organizational learning theory from a behavior perspective. His research interests include leadership theory, organizational learning, organizational development, leadership development, cultural leadership, and global leadership. He is an intern for 2008-2009 with the Integral Leadership Review.

As an educator, Yung-Pin Lu is currently teaching in the values-based leadership program at Marian University and has assisted with several leadership classes at both undergraduate and graduate levels. He has presented on cultural and international issues of leadership at several conferences and has been actively involved in a number of student leadership roles in higher education at institutions in Taiwan and the United States. He consults and assists with organizations and businesses in Asia and the United States. He has worked on problems related to focusing on strategic planning, organizational structure, organizational development, human resources, and special project management. He advises executives on solving organizational problems and helps create leadership development projects. From his multi-cultural experiences, Yung-Pin Lu has a passion to share and communicate with people about cultural issues. He has been a private tutor, Chinese language teaching assistant and cultural speaker for over 5 years .Contact information:

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Reflections on the International Leadership Association Conference

Kathryn Gaines

Kathryn GainesThe field of leadership studies does not belong to any single discipline nor does the International Leadership Association. I have observed during the past five International Leadership Association conferences, leadership scholars have become more collaborative and leadership scholarship has become more integrated. Since attending my first ILA conference in Washington, DC in 2004, and each conference since that time, I have witnessed the field, or at least this community, mature and evolve.

This growth has occurred on several levels. Most notably, there are more obvious cross cutting efforts in four key realms. First, there is the sense that the work of scholars and practitioners is informing one another and that there is a mutual respect. I sat in on panels that included scholars and practitioners working together and other panels where the work of one group informed the work of the other. Secondly, I attended several sessions led by the “celebrities” and major contributors of the field who also included or acknowledged the work of graduate students or emerging new scholars. This conveyed a sense of continuity and growth that was future-oriented. Third, the conference participants seem to include more and more voices from around the world, fostering a broader international perspective on leadership. Finally, there were presenters and participants from a wide range of sectors, so we were not examining leadership from only an organizational management view or a political or social stance, but rather across sectors.

I will point to a few of the sessions that exemplify these cross cutting efforts. First, was an international panel on leadership coaching that included experts from industry and academia during which Jay Conger facilitated engaging dialogue among the panelists and with the participants. This session demonstrated how theory and scholarship informed practice, as well as how learning from practice impacted scholarship.

Second, was a panel entitled “Defining and Legitimating the Field of Leadership Studies after the Quest”, which included James MacGregor Burns, Georgia Sorenson, Richard Couto – all longtime contributors to the field of scholarship – and also included Paige Haber, a doctoral student, as a newer voice. These, and other panelists, looked to other professional fields for strategies to define and legitimate Leadership Studies. There were also sessions, such as Alain Gauthier and Walter Link’s discussion on a global survey of Integral Leadership Development programs across sectors. Along the same vein was a case study presentation, “Integrative Leadership: Cross Sector Efforts to Solve Critical Community Problems.” Finally, there were the opportunities for up-close-and-personal conversations with approachable leadership legends during small group roundtables and receptions. For example, I sat at a luncheon roundtable with Manfred Kets de Vries and our entire table discussed some interesting questions about leadership, such as “What are the essential competencies of a good leader?” I was able to approach Ed Hollander during a reception and we talked about his work. Later, during a roundtable discussion, not only did Ed share more about his work, but he asked me about my own work and followed up after the conference. The opportunity to sit at a small group roundtable discussion with people like Barbara Kellerman and Jean Lipman-Blumen is access unlike any traditional academic conference I have attended.

On some level, this accessibility, informality, and crosscutting interaction is how ILA has been from the start. However, what I experienced this year in Los Angeles was a deepening and furthering of this integration. For instance, there were not merely different presentations from various viewpoints, or even the traditional discussion and debate across and between sectors. Rather, we seemed to have moved beyond that and have begun to interweave, generating a new and richer tapestry. Instead of taking a disciplinary stance and putting a stake in the ground and defending it, ILA members and conference participants seem to have built a community that works across silos, creating an informality and providing access and inclusiveness that cultivates openness and encourages new and creative ways of thinking. This holistic and interdisciplinary approach will no doubt shape new knowledge and practice for the field of leadership. I look forward with enthusiasm to participating and being a member of the community known as leadership studies.

Kathryn Gaines, Ph.D., is President of Leading Pace, LLC. She helps clients achieve results by building leadership capacity, commitment, and competence in the workplace. Kathryn offers 15 years of experience as a management and organization development consultant and coach and is currently working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Intelligence Community, and Adventist HealthCare. Kathryn is a field editor for the column “Consultants In Practice”, ASTD Links, an on-line publication. She is serving as Vice-President of the Leadership Team of the Chesapeake Bay Organization Development Network and as Chair-Elect of the Leadership Development Member Interest Group of the International Leadership Association. Kathryn is also a member of the OD Network, ASTD, the Metro DC Chapter of ASTD, Academy of Management, and National Association of Female Executives. Kathryn earned her Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University and holds an M.A. in Communication from the University of Maryland.