Byron's Babbles

Complex & Different

Posted in Ambition, Leadership, Lyndon B Johnson, Power, Purpose, Robert A Caro by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 11, 2020

06282019_caro_1I just finished reading the entire The Years of Lyndon Johnson series by Robert A. Caro. The four books (Caro is presently working on the fifth and final volume) in the series are:

  1. The Path to Power
  2. Means of Ascent
  3. Master of the Senate
  4. The Passage of Power

The Passage of Power ends in 1964 after the transfer of power to President Johnson following the assassination of President Kennedy. During the first few days, weeks, and months of that transition, Johnson got a lot accomplished – civil rights bill and a tax cut bill. Caro discussed how we saw leadership traits in Johnson during this short period of time during the transfer of the Presidency that we had not seen before that enabled him to keep almost all the Kennedy Cabinet in place; making it possible to get major legislation passed that it had been doubtful if President Kennedy would be able to get passed. At the end of The Passage of Power Caro said that we saw good and caring leadership traits in Johnson during the first days, weeks, and months of his Presidency that had been subordinated by other less complimentary traits. Then, later in his Presidency we saw those less complimentary traits come back. Caro shared that Lyndon Johnson once said about himself: “I’m just like a fox. I can see the jugular in any man and go for it.” While he was ruthless, he did have a plan.

Leadership is the accomplishment of a goal through the direction of human assistants – a human and social achievement that stems from the leader’s understanding of his or her fellow workers and the relationship of their individual goals to the group’s aim. W.C.H. Prentice argued in 1961 (during Lyndon Johnson times) that leaders needed to learn two basic lessons:

  1. People are complex
  2. People are different

This argument is reinforced by all the characters in The Life of Lyndon Johnson series. W.C.H. Prentice continued to posit that by responding to such individual patterns, the leader will be able to create genuinely intrinsic interest in the work. He completely rejected the notion that leadership is the exercise of power or the possession of extraordinary analytical skill. Now, fifty-nine years later, we know that leadership is about influence and the ability to empower others and help others to learn and grow.

Caro wrote this biography series with the intent to study power as opposed to just the man: Lyndon B. Johnson. Much of what drove Johnson was his ambition which most of the time seemed to overpower his purpose. He also had an uncontrollable fear of failure and losing. These fears cost him the 1964 Presidential nomination because he was scared to declare he was even running because of the fear he might lose. By the time he declared it was too late. We now recognize how important purpose is to leadership. Leadership then becomes the accomplishment of goals with the assistance of the human element. In 1961 Prentice also taught us that leaders successfully marshal their human collaborators to achieve particular ends.

This study of power by Caro, caused me to think that most of the time Johnson was exercising power as opposed to exhibiting leadership prowess. The paradox is, however, that he was achieving particular ends. I wonder if W.C.H. Prentice studied or thought about Lyndon Johnson at the time he was forming thoughts about leadership? Once Johnson received the ultimate power he had lusted all those those years, he did, according to Caro, have a plan. He used his power for improving what he called the Great Society and championing civil rights. As with all humans, Johnson was complex and different. He did some great things as well as really terrible things. Caro taught us that biography gives of the ability to study all of the traits that are Lyndon B. Johnson.

 

“Don’t Romanticize The Job”

Posted in Ambition, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Passion by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 2, 2020

Yesterday, I heard the phrase “Don’t romanticize the job” used. We all romanticize certain ideas. The context that was being used when I heard it was romanticizing police work and wanting to help people and make a difference in the world. Interestingly, those are the same things said by those going into education. Pick any job and something could probably be romanticized about it. We could find someone in real life or in movies, television shows, or books who looked cool doing it. When we romanticize, however, we are responding to how we think our lives should be, look, or feel.

As opposed to romanticizing, we need to check reality. We need think about what we really want or how we really feel. Otherwise we are probably going to be very disappointed. Most things are not near the way we romanticize them. Think about this romanticization: the person working the longest, sleeping the least, stressing the most, sending emails at all hours of the night, is working the hardest and getting the most done. Of course this is not correct, but I actually know people who set their computer to send out emails in the middle of the night so people think they are working. Dumbest thing I’ve ever heard!!!

Notoriety used to be something that happened or was achieved after having done something notable in a person’s respective field. Now it has morphed into a goal in and of itself. In other words, the romantic ambition of fame begins to inform passion – not good. This romanticizing can lead people to focus more on getting attention than learning and growing their individual skills. When deciding how to build our lives and our personal growth plans, we need to make sure we are deciding based on facts, and not some romanticized version of reality.

Influencer, Inspiring, & Impactful

At yesterday’s Indiana 3D Leadership gathering I was inspired to do some deeper studying, which is usually the case, because of discussion that took place. I usually say the discussion inspired me, but for this post I’m contemplating what to call it. More on why I say that, later in the post. Last night we did an activity that I call Rushmorean Leadership which was then followed up by an activity called extending the influence. The activity calls for teacher leaders to bring pictures to identify four great leaders to put on their own personal Mount Rushmore. Then they bring six additional pictures to extend the influence.

As with everything this Indiana group does, I was blown away. What struck me last night, however, was that one participant talked about the persons on their board as influencers. Then the next referred to the leaders as inspiring and yet another referred to the her chosen leaders as impactful. For some reason I just had to ask the question of the group: What’s the difference, if any, in these descriptors? A great discussion ensued, which then led to me studying deeper this morning.

We all know that leadership is not about a title or a designation. We also know, and I’m glad we discussed this in depth last night that ambition is not a favorable characteristic of great leaders. For ambition will take over purpose. Influencers, we decided, spread passion for work, causes, innovation, or change. Those that inspire evoke a sense of energy. Finally, impact involves getting results. Impact is ultimately the measuring stick of the influence or inspiration.

Influencers cause us to think about things differently. They help us to shape our purpose, passion, and core values. Interestingly several participants had parents on their boards and referred to how they had influenced their lives.

In contrast, those that inspire help us gain motivation. This inspiration may be in the form of receptivity, positivity, or motivation. There is research that links inspiration to motivation. This inspiration causes us to actively engage in environments that lead toward self growth and fulfillment of needs.

The more I studied and reflected on all this I formed the opinion that most, if not all, of the leaders chosen by the group were influencers who were creating an impact. These individuals were all helping to create constructive cultures, whether in organizations, nations, or globally. In their five star book, Creating Constructive Cultures: Leading People and Organizations to Effectively Solve Problems and Achieve Goals, Janet Szumal and Robert Cooke of Human Synergistics International ask the question: “As a leader, how can you both directly and indirectly influence your organization to ensure that members can independently and interactively solve problems and achieve the organization’s goals more readily and effectively?” I love the question because it has both directly and indirectly. Of the ten leaders each participant brought pictures of, some influenced directly, eg. parents. Others influenced indirectly, eg. Michelle Obama.

One thing is for sure; in all cases the individuals chosen embodied the necessary styles to create constructive cultures. All strove to create the cultural norms necessary for creating constructive cultural styles. See the constructive styles below:

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that influencing, being inspiring, and being impactful are not mutually exclusive. They go hand in hand when being a model of personal growth for us and creating constructive cultures.

Passion At Ambition’s Command

Posted in Ambition, Educational Leadership, Global Leadership, Leadership, Lyndon B Johnson, Passion, Power, Purpose, Robert A Caro by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on February 14, 2020

We teach that having passion is a key to success, particularly when linked with purpose. History, however, teaches us that passion can become destructive. Research in psychology describes this destructive passion as “obsessive passion.” The good passion is “harmonious passion.” My recent reading has given examples of two individuals where obsessive passion drove the individuals to become power hungry.

“His passions were at ambition’s command.” ~ James A. Caro in The Path To Power

In The Path To Power, Robert A. Caro said that Lyndon B. Johnson‘s passions were at ambition’s command. Johnson was obsessed with power and couldn’t get enough of it. The ambition for power and becoming president took over and clouded any purposeful passion for helping the people of our country. Everything he did and anyone he helped was dependent on what he could get out of it, or what power could be derived. When obsessive passion takes over with ambition calling the shots, the person’s self-worth becomes validated by whatever the ambition is. In the case of Lyndon Johnson that ambition was power.

Another person I recently studied who let obsessive passion take over was Elizabeth Holmes, Founder and CEO of Theranos. I read about her in Bad Blood: Secrets And Lies In A Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou. She had purpose and passion for a world changing blood testing and analysis machine that only needed a drop or two of blood to run a myriad of tests. Her company wasn’t able to meet performance standards or efficacy. She is still involved in legal actions against her including criminal charges. Her ambition was for success as defined by celebrity, power, and greed instead of purpose for significance. To read more about this check out When Purpose and Passion Turn Into Ambition.