Aristotle on Virtuous LeadershipJames O’Toole surveys the works of Aristotle in Creating the Good Life, and creates a practical framework that can be used to evaluate leadership in our own time. This excerpt is from a section regarding community leadership:
Aristotle says a leader also needs practical wisdom. Practical wisdom has “nothing to do with calculating magnitudes,” nothing to do with science, theory, disciplinary knowledge, or knowledge of facts in any way. It is concerned “neither with eternal and unchangeable truth nor with anything and everything that comes into being (and passes away again). Instead, it deals with matters where doubt and deliberation are possible.” In particular, practical wisdom is not concerned with the way things are but with “how things can be other than they are.” In other words, it is about how conditions in society and organizations could be made better. And “it implies the use of one’s faculty of opinion in judging matters” relating to what is right and wrong for a group, or society as a whole.
In Aristotle’s eyes, such practical wisdom is the prerequisite of “moral excellence,” the sine qua non of leadership: “That is why we say Pericles and men like him have practical wisdom. They have the capacity to see what is good for themselves and for humankind.”
Aristotle concludes that virtuous leaders in the Periclean mold are rare, but their scarcity is not due to a shortage of leadership capacity in the human race. Instead, he believes the virtue manifested by those rare leaders is an acquired trait; he believes leaders are made, not born. Indeed they are self-made.
At all times, the conscious goal of a just leader is to help followers achieve what is good for them, which, on occasion, may be something different from what they think they want. Hence, in addition to effectiveness, leadership has a moral dimension: the capacity to discern and provide justice.
Out of Context: Gaius Petronius Arbiter on Reorganizing
"We trained hard, but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized…. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization."
—Attributed to Gaius Petronius Arbiter (Titus Petronius Niger)
5 Leadership Lessons: Charles Handy's Wisdom
Charles Handy’s memoir, Myself and Other More Important Matters, is full of candid insights from a thoughtful life. Here are a few lessons to take away:
If all your expectations with life work out well then you probably haven’t pushed yourself far enough. There may be lives out there that you could have lived had you dared more.
I learnt that in most human situations there is no textbook answer, that everyone is different and that you have to make your own judgments most of the time, make your own decisions and then stand by them. Only in technical matters does the expert know better.
Schools, at every level, prefer to teach what can be taught, rather than what needs to be learnt.
Organizations are not machines.
My belief is that most people have a fundamental understanding of what makes organizations work. They just need to be reminded of it and encouraged to apply their understanding to their own work. The late Sumantra Goshal of the London Business School once described Peter Drucker as practising the scholarship of common sense. I would like that said of me. For example, it is only common sense that people are more likely to be committed to a cause or mission if they had a hand in shaping it. That does not need research to prove it. Nor do you have to see the research to know that groups are likely to produce better results than the same individuals acting on their own.
Miles’ Law and Six Other Maxims of ManagementRufus E. Miles, Jr. (1910-1996) was an assistant secretary under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and six H.E.W. secretaries. He developed from “memorable encounters with reality,” Miles’ Law and Six Other Maxims of Management. The law states: Where you stand depends on where you sit. He codified that which we should know intuitively. We see things and form judgments of things from our own perspective. We need to discipline ourselves to see things from other’s vantage point. To his law he added six maxims:
• Maxim 1: The responsibility of every manager exceeds his authority, and if he tries to increase his authority to equal his responsibility, he is likely to diminish both.
• Maxim 2: Managers at any level think they can make better decisions than either their superiors or their subordinates; most managers therefore seek maximum delegations from their superiors and make minimum delegations to their subordinates.
• Maxim 3: Serving more than one master is neither improper nor unusually difficult if the servant can get a prompt resolution when the masters disagree.
• Maxim 4: Since managers are usually better talkers than listeners, subordinates need courage and tenacity to make their bosses hear what they do not want to hear.
• Maxim 5: Being two-faced—one face for superiors and one for subordinates—is not a vice but a virtue for a program manager if he or she presents his or her two faces open and candidly.
• Maxim 6: Dissatisfaction with services tends to rise rapidly when the provider of the services becomes bureaucratically bigger, more remote, and less flexible, even if costs are somewhat lower.
These laws were originally published in September 1978. "The Origin and Meaning of Miles' Law," Public Administration Review, September – October 1978.
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The Increasingly Political Role of BusinessRecent articles in Foreign Affairs and The McKinsey Quarterly, promote the idea that businesses have a clear responsibility—increasingly a very political one—to the community beyond its shareholders.
In Foreign Affairs, Klaus Schwab, the Executive Chair of the World Economic Forum, writes, “Above all, a new imperative for business, best described as "global corporate citizenship," must be recognized.
It expresses the conviction that companies not only must be engaged with their stakeholders but are themselves stakeholders alongside governments and civil society. International business leaders must fully commit to sustainable development and address paramount global challenges, including climate change, the provision of public health care, energy conservation, and the management of resources, particularly water. Because these global issues increasingly impact business, not to engage with them can hurt the bottom line. Because global citizenship is in a corporation's enlightened self-interest, it is sustainable. Addressing global issues can be good both for the corporation and for society at a time of increasing globalization and diminishing state influence.”
Schwab writes that state power has shrunk. “At the same time as state power has declined, the influence of corporations on communities, on the lives of citizens, and on the environment has sharply increased. This fundamental shift in the global power equation means that just as communities and citizens look to government for answers and leadership, so now they target corporations with both requests for help and criticism for wrongdoing.”
Similarly, in an interview published in The McKinsey Quarterly, with the head of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass observes that
“Today, the environment that business leaders operate in is fundamentally different than it was a generation or two ago. It’s far more political. There is a conceit in the business and management literature that businesses face the toughest problems and have a lot to teach the rest of us. But the reality is that the environment business leaders operate in is increasingly political. It is global and it involves tremendous transparency, greater accountability, independent stakeholders, less freedom to maneuver, and an inability to narrowcast messages. That sounds a lot like politics. Businesses actually have a lot to learn.” Businesses should look to government for clues.
Both Haass and Schwab see a wider role for the CEO now than in the past. Haass tells MQ, “There is a slightly hermetic quality to management books that doesn’t quite capture an increasingly political, transparent, and demanding reality. Too much of the business literature operates within the confines of the firm, inside the balance sheet, or inside headquarters. That is important and necessary, but insufficient....The new role involves nothing less than a fundamentally different way of doing business. It is about dealing with a wider and more powerful group of stakeholders and constituencies and being proactive, not reactive, with them.”
Areas where businesses should assume a stronger social role include the lag between globalization and global arrangements, climate change, how best to integrate a rising China and a rising India into that region and the world, and the Middle East, which contains enough issues to keep anyone occupied. Haass adds, “The uncomfortable reality is that there is no shortage of subjects worth thinking and writing and speaking about if your business happens to be assessing political, economic, and strategic risk and suggesting what to do about it.”
Quarrel Not At All: The Stuff of CommandPresident Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman, the follow-up to Lincoln’s Virtues, William Lee Miller, writes that if you knew Lincoln before he became president, you knew that it was part of Lincoln’s character to be capable of overlooking slights to himself, but you might question whether he could, at the same time, “command armies and make the demanding decisions of a nation at war.”
The stuff of command, especially in a giant deadly conflict, would not seem ordinarily to combine well with the stuff of forbearance and generosity. Executive skill and vigor, like a surgeon’s skill, would appear to require a certain withdrawal of empathy. The resolution necessary to great statesmanship would appear to invite, if not even to require, a certain ruthlessness with those whose wills and complex humanity complicate, impede, and even defy one’s vigorously pursued purpose.In a letter to Captain James M. Cutts who had been found guilty in a court-martial of conduct unbecoming of an officer of a gentleman, Lincoln offered this advice:
Quarrel not at all. No man resolved to make the most of himself, can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper and the loss of self-control.Miller writes:
Interpreting Lincoln, we might say: We overestimate our own interest, and we underestimate our adversary’s, so that the advice to yield on all small matters, and on all matters than even to our distorting eyes seem equally balanced, is a moral corrective. Here is a lawyer, and a politician, and a war leader in the midst of tremendous battles giving this surprising advice: quarrel not at all.Lincoln was a man possessed magnanimity and discriminating judgment, who was able to rise above vindictiveness to win the battles that mattered most. Miller’s book on Lincoln holds many lessons for leaders of today. He shows how Lincoln learned to balance his strengths and weaknesses in a way that made him one of the greatest and most respected leaders in modern times.
Best Presidents In History - 2008 Harris PollHarris Interactive conducted an online poll within the United States last month. They asked over 2000 adults: Which one of the following presidents do you think was the best overall president in our history?
The list included all presidents since Franklin Roosevelt, along with some of the more famous from earlier in American history – George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge.
Scores were tallied by adding the percentage of those who answered “best” and “second best” for each president. Among modern leaders, Ronald Reagan ranked highest, but even his cache could not compete with the mighty Abe Lincoln, who was named the top president by 20 percent of those surveyed.
Out of Context: Managing Paradox
The more turbulent the times, the more complex the world, the more paradoxes there are. We can and should, reduce the starkness of some of the contradictions, minimize the inconsistencies, understand the puzzles in the paradoxes, but we cannot make them disappear, or solve them completely, or escape from them.
Paradox has to be accepted, coped with, and made sense of, in life, in work, in the community, and among nations.
We have no chance of managing the paradoxes if we are not prepared to give up something, if we are not willing to bet on the future, and if we cannot find it in ourselves to take a risk with people. These are our pathways through the paradoxes if we have the will. The pursuit of our own short-term advantage, and the desire to win everything we can, will only perpetuate animosities, destroy alliances and partnerships, frustrate progress, and breed lawyers and the enforcement bureaucracy.
—Charles Handy, The Age of Paradox
How to Start Strong with Any AudienceIn Brian Tracy’s new book, Speak to Win, he presents 8 tips for taking command of the podium before even speaking a word:
Step Up Confidently. When you are introduced, step up to the podium and shake hands with the introducer. As soon as you have the stage to yourself, turn to the audience. Start with silence. Smile and sweep your eyes slowly around the room for a few seconds, as if you are really happy to be there. As you stand silently, smiling, the audience will very quickly settle down and wait for you to begin.
Look the Part. Your appearance tells the audience how you think and feel about yourself. Your appearance also communicates to the audience members how you think and feel about them. People will make a decision about you in the first 30 seconds. Nothing about how you look—your clothes, your grooming, your stance—should distract from or diminish your message. As a rule, it isn’t “cool” to get up in front of an audience dressed as if you had just been working out at the gym.
Build Positive Expectations. Your first job is to raise expectations. You want to make the audience members feel glad they came. You want them to be eager to hear more. You want them to like you from the start. The more likeable people perceive you to be, the more open they will be to your message, and the less resistant they will be to any controversial points or ideas you bring up.
Take Charge Immediately. When you stand up to speak, you become the leader. The audience wants you to take charge and be in control. Act as if you own the room and as if everyone works for you. Then, people will believe and follow.
Speak Directly to the Audience. When you begin speaking, focus in on a single person in the audience. Start off by speaking directly and warmly to him or her. Then, casually move on to another face, and then another, and another. This direct eye contact slows you down, calms your nerves, and helps you to develop a relationship with the people in your audience.
Be Authentic and Humble. The best way to be liked is to be genuine. If you feel a little embarrassed or overwhelmed by the positive attention the audience is giving to you, it’s OK to show it. Try not to appear as if you know it all.
Insultants WantedThe Breakthrough Company, calls these straight-shooters insultants (inside consultants). He describes them as those people “willing to ask the tough questions that cause a company to think critically about its fundamental assumptions. The value of insultants is that they will go to great lengths to get their companies to reevaluate a position or adapt to a changing environment.”
If you think that you welcome these people, think again. A survey showed that while 90 percent of CEOs believed that their companies regularly implemented ideas that the CEO initially didn’t like, only 60 percent of their direct reports agreed.
McFarland reports that people tend to differ to authority and rank because they feel that they must know better. “But often authority figures are wrong, and if an organization doesn’t have a strong insultant culture, errors are likely to be propagated throughout the company.”
If you feel you are an insultant, don't think you begin by charging in like a bull in a china shop. There is a right way and a wrong way to do things. You are trying to make the leader successful, not trying to show how smart you are or place the spotlight on yourself. Good insultants must learn to excel at relationships based on genuine care for others. McFarland offers these tips that one would do well to heed:
What to Do When Things Go WrongWhen things go wrong, we often begin by asking ourselves the wrong questions like “Why is this happening to me?” In QBQ, John Miller writes that “our first reactions are often negative, bringing to mind incorrect questions. But if in each moment of decision we can instead discipline our thoughts to look behind those initial questions and ask better ones (QBQ’s – the Questions Behind the Questions), the questions themselves will lead us to better results….The answers are in the questions.”
When a problem (or a challenge is you prefer) arises, we start looking for some control of the situation. The problem is, we quite naturally begin by looking at those around us and ask the wrong types of questions like “why?” and “who?” The wrong questions take away any control of the situation we might otherwise gain.
In LeaderShock, Greg Hicks suggests that we look for meaning in the situation first. Ask self-revealing questions like:
John Miller stresses that the right questions contain an “I” and not “you,” “they,” and “them.” “I” questions lead to action. “Questions that contain an “I” turn our focus away from other people and circumstances and put it back on ourselves, where it can do the most good. We can’t change other people. We can’t control circumstances and events. The only things we have any real control over are our own thoughts and actions. Asking questions that focus our efforts and energy on what we can do makes us significantly more effective, not to mention happier and less frustrated.”
Out of Context: Excellence
Excellence, for example, stands for giving our best, on the field of play or in the professional arena. Our motto is “faster, higher, stronger.” Excellence is not just about winning. It is also about a state of mind and a behavior. Making progress against personal goals. Striving to be and do our best in our daily lives. It is about benefiting from the healthy combination of a strong body, mind and will.
—Jacques Rogge, President, International Olympic Committee,
Speech in Chicago, November 2, 2007
Do You Want to Change the World?James Kouzes and Barry Posner are the authors of the classic The Leadership Challenge. In A Leader’s Legacy, they make an important point about leadership and passion:
"When people talk about leadership, they often use the word passion. And when we think about passion we tend to think of emotions like enthusiasm, zeal, energy, exuberance, and intensity. Well, all those attributions might be true, but when you look up the word passion in any dictionary that includes origins you’ll see that it comes from the Latin word for suffering. Passion is suffering! A passionate person is someone who suffers and a compassionate person is someone who suffers with, and shares the suffering of, others—and wants to take action to alleviate this condition. Nearly every act of leadership requires suffering—and often for the leader a choice between one’s personal success and safety and the greater welfare of others. We’re asking you to understand that nothing great comes without costs.
"If you want to be a leader, you must be willing to pay a price. By sacrificing, you demonstrate that you’re not in it for yourself. This sends the message, loud and clear, that you have the best interests of others at heart.
"The most significant contributions leaders make not to today’s bottom line but to the long-term development of individuals and institutions that adapt, prosper, and grow. People should never take the job of leadership if they’re unwilling to see beyond their own needs. If they do, they will ultimately fail."
Charles Handy: Are Leaders Born or Made?Myself and Other More Important Matters, ponders the idea of getting to the bottom of who we really are and the difficulty of seeing ourselves as others see us. Throughout our lives we all play many parts and in a sense, become different people. Can we become something different from what we see ourselves as being to this point? Can we become a leader? Handy weighs in on this:
One of the debates in psychology is whether we have a core identity that is sitting there in our inner self, waiting to be revealed, or whether our identity only evolves over time. One of the perennial questions that bug organizations is a derivation of that debate – are leaders born or made? The truth, as in most things, is probably a bit of both. The battery of personality tests that purport to show whether we are introvert or extravert, whether we like structured situations or a bit of chaos, are based on the idea that our real identities are formed by early adulthood and that a good life is about finding situations that fir our characteristics. There is some intuitive truth on this….We can’t escape our genes.Leadership is a possibility we can all explore. It is something we can develop if we choose to. What combination of strengths and weaknesses we have to manage will of course vary from person to person, as we are all different; we are born with different genes. And this is as it should be. Leadership development is a highly personal experience that requires self-knowledge and a willingness to confront those areas where need to improve that will make us effective with people. The traits that will make you a better leader are the same traits that will give you the capacity for success in all areas of your life. Above all, our leadership is reflected in our character.
At the same time, leadership training offers the opportunity to examine our thinking in an environment where mentors are available to help us to interpret what we find and guide us to the appropriate changes we need to make in our lives. But no training will, of and by itself, make one a leader. That’s an inside job.
Leadership Books: February 2008Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in February.
Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders by Barbara Kellerman
Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky
Myself and Other More Important Matters by Charles B. Handy
The Powers to Lead: Soft, Hard, and Smart by Joseph S. Nye
Why Should the Boss Listen to You? The Seven Disciplines of the Trusted Strategic Advisor by James E. Lukaszewski
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