21st Century Leadership: the jury is out

April 29, 2014

The jury is out on the emerging leadership maps of the 21st century. In this first report, we hear the summing up by the judge dealing with the evidence of the rise of rational belief systems from the time of Plato to the 18th century enlightenment and beyondThe Judge

Members of the jury. You have the responsibility to evaluate the credibility of the case for and against the leadership theories of the 21st century. To do so, you have to assess the accounts of witnesses brought forward by the prosecution and the defense. The theories placed before you are: Level 5 leadership, Distributed leadership, trust-based leadership, creative leadership, positive leadership, authentic leadership, sustainability leadership, discursive leadership, visionary leadership, charismatic leadership, and transformational leadership,

The theories brought before you are those that have become more powerful since the start of the millennium. Before I summarize the evidence, I believe it will be helpful if I outline the historical background to these theories, and particularly the influence of the dominant rational model, accused of being the ring leader of the entire group.

You will recall hearing from several witnesses that the influential leadership theories of the 20th century were broadly considered to be based on a dominant belief system in the effectiveness of rational actions informed by rational reasoning. That is to say, leadership was the execution of rational behaviours by rational actors.

The advocates of rationality have pointed to the great advances made through application of such rational behaviours for over two millennia. Two thousand years, members of the jury. Rationality, it has been claimed, was worked out as a means of establishing truths about the material world, and the worlds of science and mathematics. Many centuries later a new philosophic approach to rationality was worked out which claimed it to be the key that unlocked human consciousness from a state of ignorance or unenlightened beliefs. You heard the philosopher Immanuel Kant state that [I quote] “immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another.” In other words, enlightenment is the process of undertaking to think for oneself, to employ and rely on one’s own intellectual capacities in determining what to believe and how to act.

The French academician René Descartes gave evidence of his rationalist system of philosophy and of the objectivity which reveals reality. The Enlightenment is sometimes called “the Age of Reason”. Its leading philosophers followed Descartes’s attempts to deal with the issue of objectivity and the reality of what we perceive and believe to be true.

The enlightenment ushered in an age of rationality and modernity as science and the scientific methods of analysis helped in the advances in industrial practices. An age of modernity in thinking and creating had replaced earlier less enlightened ages.

By the 20th century, the scientific approach of rationality, if I may use a popular expression, appeared to be the only show in town. As I have explained it, I have not yet made an important point. The rational model has indeed been dominant for over two centuries. Dominant but not, if I am to be precise, utterly without rivals. There were other shows in town, and it is witnesses of these that were introduced by the prosecution, who argue that they remain muted as evidence of the excessive power being wielded by the dominant rational model in leadership theorizing.

I will now move to the ten theories and the evidence of the influence of the dominant rational model.

[To be continued with the judge’s summing up of the ten theories]

Level 5 leadership,
Distributed leadership,
trust-based leadership,
creative leadership,
positive leadership,
authentic leadership,
sustainability leadership,
discursive leadership,
visionary leadership,
charismatic leadership,
transformational leadership.

Expert witness statements

Matheson, Carl, “Historicist Theories of Rationality“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

Bristow, William, “Enlightenment“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),


“We the people”. Where’s the evidence that transformational leadership works?

November 25, 2013

Dr John Keane

Since the 1980s, leadership texts place transformational leadership at the centre of the new leadership movement. Is the theory supported in practice?

Like many leadership teachers, my lectures refer the new leadership movement as the major change in theoretical thinking. It was introduced around the 1980s, and places emphasis on vision, innovative change, and the transformation of organizations and individuals. It succeeded in challenging the older ideas in which leadership was rather easily muddled up with effective management plus a dash of mysterious charisma and inspiration. Early work frequently referred to John F Kennedy whose death fifty years ago we remember this week [Nov 21st 2013].

I’ll start with examining the possibility of transformational change through political leaders in the west who are considered transformational.

The Thatcher vision

The 1980s in the UK were the Thatcher years. She would be the most obvious example of a visionary leader. The Telegraph offered a succinct and plausible definition: “to release the repressed aspirations of millions of ordinary people”. Advocates of transformational leadership could argue that Margaret Thatcher helped change the aspirations of millions of ordinary people. Others would argue that the transformation has not resulted in more noble aspirations or a more widespread capacity to reflect on personal beliefs and values. That is hardly a surprising conclusion, but arguably it lies at the heart of transformational leadership’s capacity to transform people as well as systems.

The Reagan Vision

Margaret Thatcher’s political soul mate in America was Robert Reagan. He held steadfastly to a vision of a world in which the ‘evil empire’ of the [then] Soviet Union would be defeated and transformed into a democratic society. The Soviet Union did crumble. Again, the vision has been partially fulfilled in the structural sense, but it is hard detect evident that the legacy of Reagan has transformed beliefs.

The transformation of societies and organizations

By the end of the decade, Francis Fukuyama had declared a victory of democracy through the advance of science and rationality and decline of dictatorships. His prediction now seems somewhat exaggerated.

Fast forward

In America, the beliefs of “we the people” today seem to be far from transformed by the heirs to Reagan. Efforts to achieve the changes in President Obama’s “can do” vision stall in what is increasingly seem as a dysfunctional political system.

In the UK this year at her death [2013] Margaret Thatcher was seen as a towering figure who achieved structural changes that many of her political opponents are pleased enough not to attempt to reverse.

The people of Russia appear to be ‘untransformed’ enough to prefer the old style strong-man leadership of Putin over the Social Democratic ideas of the 1980s which appear to have been President Gorbachev’s more transformational vision.

In America, the beliefs of “we the people” seem to be far from transformed by the heirs to Reagan.

The non-transformation of the people

I listen a lot to the publicly-expressed views of leaders. I hear how their visions will transform the broader groups whom they seek to influence. I listen to the views and beliefs expressed by those broader groups.

Should we have a vision non-proliferation movement?

Political leaders speak as one with our business leaders in expressing their visions. Political and business leaders are failing to win the confidence and trust of their constituents. Perhaps we need a vision non-proliferation movement.

The author is a writer and researcher into leadership theory and practice. The views expressed are his own.


The Power of Stories: Success of the TOMS Company and the cult of Conscious Consumerism

October 17, 2013

Vikram Madineni

Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, has redefined social consumerism. His organization can claim to have helped 150,000 people to have had their sight restored, and donated ten million pairs of shoes around the world

According to Ty Montague, Los Angeles social entrepreneur Mykoskie has been engaged in not just story telling but in story doing. TOMS is referred to as a “storydoing” company owing its success partly to what has been described as conscious consumers, who want to be involved in giving back to the society.

Often companies spend huge amounts of money in advertising to create brand awareness and recognition but storydoing companies rely on their consumers and employees to be their advertisers. Montague coined the word “Metastory”, a story told with action. He says that consumers are the biggest storytellers and company should strive to connect with a Metastory.

One for one shoes

Blake Mycoskie started TOMS in 2006 with a powerful story, support children in need, and with a radically different business model – “One-for-One”. Mycoskie’s model is based on a simple concept – sell a pair of shoes today and give a pair of shoes tomorrow. Mycoskie says that people who support TOMS are more than customers, they’re supporters. Mycoskie attibutes the company’s meteoric rise to supporters’ belief in his story and their passion to be part of it.

One for one eye products

TOMS extended their business model in 2011 to eyewear and helps to restore eyesight in the new one-for-one program for each pair of eyewear sold. Mycoskie believes in the new age of conscious capitalism – businesses in addition to making money want to connect with supporters and make an impact in the world together.

FEED Projects, a company with commitment to feed the poor, is another great example with a similar business model to TOMS. Lauren Bush started FEED Projects in 2007 with a promise to feed 1 child for a year for each bag sold. FEED Projects and the foundation have donated more than 60 million school meals to children around the world.

Businesses that had not incorporated “giving back” in their strategy model joined the new age movement and embraced social responsibility. Chu refers to several such companies:

Figs Scrubs (donates a set of scrubs to health professionals in need for every set of scrubs sold), Two Degrees (donates a natural health bar to a hungry child for every one sold), One world Futbol (donates a soccer ball to disadvantaged communities for every soccer ball sold), Bobs By Skechers (donates a pair of shoes for every pair sold).
Businesses have realized that given a choice between two brands, consumers tend to support and want associate with the one that is committed to a social cause. Recent studies also revealed that businesses tend to retain or attract talented employees based on their commitment toward social responsibility.

Are such social businesses making a difference?

It’s a challenge for the businesses to build the trust and loyalty among customers. How can they narrate a powerful story? Does every story connect with the customers? Do the companies truly believe in servant leadership? TOM’s shoes model has been questioned – does it really address the root cause of poverty?

There’s growing evidence that conscious capitalist organizations can thrive and succeed. Consumers. It could be said that their supporters are in lookout for the transformational leaders. Leaders have a challenge not only build their trust, but also overcome ethical dilemmas.

Vikram Madineni is a Senior Electronics Engineer, Ingersoll Rand.


Antony Jenkins leads a transformational programme [‘RISES’] at Barclays

April 27, 2013

 

NOTE TO SUBSCRIBERS:  THIS POST FROM APRIL 2013 IS UPDATED AS THE CASE STUDY DEVELOPS

By Nigel Aldcroft

Antony JenkinsAntony Jenkins has been Group Chief Executive of Barclays PLC for less than a year and has already made quite an impression within the company. His RISES programme is accompanied by nearly 4000 job losses

A recent article in Business Week suggests that Barclay’s self-described ‘transformational leader’ [image above] faces a number of key dilemmas.

Banking Turnaround

Amid the recent banking scandals, and in an effort to turn Barclays around, Jenkins has announced that following on from a recent strategic review he intends to reduce headcount by at least 3,700 this year across the group as part of the new ‘Transform’ programme.

He recently introduced a plan which creates the positive sounding acronym ‘RISES’ [Respect, Integrity, Service, Excellence and Stewardship]. These are not values that immediately spring to mind in banking, yet progress can be seen at most Barclays’ offices.

Jenkins has taken a no-nonsense approach telling staff to ‘shape up – or ship out’ This abrupt and clear approach suggests symbolic leadership signals.

Read the rest of this entry »


Leadership lessons from the life of Margaret Thatcher

April 18, 2013

Margaret Thatcher Freedom Fighter

A post on Leadership Lessons from the life of Margaret Thatcher is under preparation. It will include an examination of obituaries and appraisals in the media over the period between her death and her funeral [April 8th -April 17th 2013].

These include the view from The Economist which concluded

This is a crucial time to hang on to Margaret Thatcher’s central perception: that for countries to flourish, people need to push back against the advance of the state. What the world needs now is more Thatcherism, not less.

Subscribers’ comments will be welcomed.


Vladimir Putin

October 8, 2012

Vladimir Putin


Is Vladimir Putin a Transformational or a Charismatic Leader?

December 1, 2011

The question assumes the two categories are ‘either-or’. A better question: are Vlidimir Putin’s behaviours explained better by transformational or charismatic leadership maps?

Beware the ‘Either-or’ question

A quick visit to textbooks of leadership (such as Dilemmas of Leadership) provides ways of answering the questions and explains the difficulties inherent in an ‘either-or’ formulation. One reason is that an either-or perspective overlooks overlooks the key point that in empirical studies, leaders display a full range of styles including transformational and transactional features.

The charismatic leadership map

Charismatic leaders have been mapped from ancient times. The core assumption about them is that they have special skills or gifts so that followers are captivated by them and their ideas.

The transformational leadership map

The transformational map is a modern treatment of leaders (ca 1980s) which acknowledges some features are charismatic. The Transformation leader, as its label implies, transforms the worlds of their followers (which can be local to a team or organization, or global to the leader of a Nation State).

Transformational leaders are assessed most commonly on a scale developed by Bass and Avolio which captures a ‘full range’ of factors including transformational and transactional ones. Transformational leaders mostly require some transactional skills as well.

Other differences

The older maps of charismatic leadership have increasingly been extended to incorporate the ‘dark side’ of charismatic leadership manifest in tyrannical leaders. Transformational leadership has tended to treat tyrannical leaders as a special case. This has produced the so-called ‘Hitler dilemma’ for transformational research.

In part, the difficulty may be seen to require attention to the ‘dark side’ of leaders which is not generally considered.

Putin as a Grand Prix driver

A recent news article from Xinhuanet shows Mr Putin as a Grand Prix driver.

Jeff Schubert’s view

LWD subscriber Jeff Schubert notes

In order to justify his impending return to the presidency, Putin has invoked the cases of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charles De Gaulle and Helmut Kohl as men who held power for a long time and who have been treated quite well be history – in contrast to Russia’s own Leonid Brezhnev.

Dmitry Peskov, his press secretary has said: “Putin reads all the time, mostly about the history of Russia. He reads memoirs, the memoirs of Russian historical state figures…”

The maps suggest…

If the distinction between transformational and charismatic style holds, a case could be made that Putin fits the older maps of someone who is actively promoted as a charismatic leader more than as the more modern transformational one.

Recent events

Recent events in The Ukraine have brought President Putin into the international spotlight. The western media have tended to mock the assiduous building of his image of the great leader, although with less contempt than in their treatments of North Korea’s incumbent. His decisive military intervention in the Ukrainian crisis has drawn attention to his power to influence world events.

Worth thinking about

Emerging events suggest that Putin is being seen as a modern illustration of The Great Man theory of leadership.. The theory was associated with Thomas Carlyle in the nineteenth century and considers that heroic and rare individuals shape the course of history. The contrary theories suggest that historical situations create powerful leaders. Cometh the hour, cometh the leader…

In many cultures the yearning for a Great Man to emerge and lead the people to greatness or rescue them from danger remains. Students are left to consider why the theory tends to ignore the Great Woman theory of leadership.

Interest in this post increased at the height of the Ukraine crisis [March 2014]. Is someone adding the Lone Ranger style to those attributed to Putin?