Byron's Babbles

A Focus on What Is Working

The following is an excerpt from Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry by Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

A Focus on What Is Working

By Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair

In a problem-based world, it is very challenging to keep a leadership focus on what is working. We believe that focusing on what is working matters as a practice that builds appreciative resilience. Leaders are bombarded by problems every day. A focus on what is working pulls them out of that mindset of problem- and deficit-based thinking to begin to see what is right and what is good inside a team or an organization. Joan worked for a president who made this a practiced part of her leadership. She started every meeting with the question “What do we have to celebrate?” As Joan and other leaders in the room shifted their mind-set to uplift the stories worth celebrating, the entire feeling in the room shifted. The thinking shifted from “We have problems” to “Yes, we have problems needing to be solved, but we also are doing some things right.” 

This particular leader had several catastrophic events occur within the organization in a short period of time. Joan always noted that she started every conversation during those very difficult times with some version of celebrating the skills of the people handling those events.

Focusing on what is working inside a team or organization builds resilience for the individuals and the group by constantly reinforcing a drive to be excellent, not because of fear, but because their successes are celebrated. Celebrating what is working is like depositing resilience into an emotional bank account for later use. This bank account helps leaders deal with uncertainty, fear, and stress. In a crisis, a leader can tell others, verbally or through action, that their jobs, livelihood, and reputation are on the line, or they can share what is working well and uplift the drive of people to repair and rebuild.

It takes a conscious and mindful effort to focus on what is working. It takes the practice of pausing and thinking through the situation from multiple perspectives and asking powerful questions. This practice is easier in hopeful times, and we suggest that these are the times to begin the practice. If leaders practice a focus on what is working in hopeful times, they will find it much easier to do when a crisis arises. It is difficult to focus on what is working in times of despair, yet it is possible if one has practiced in times of hope. As leaders move through the element or state of despair, it is very difficult not to assign blame, seek justice, dole out retribution, or withdraw. In forgiveness, one must hold what is working close to one’s leadership heart, because a focus on what is working and forgiveness are linked together. Without leaders focusing on what is working or on what is possible, forgiveness cannot happen. 

Focusing on what is working well is a practice that trains leaders to seek out the appreciative stance and, in doing so, discover what can be built on and taken into the future.

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About the authors 

Dr. Jeanie Cockell and Dr. Joan McArthur-Blair, co-presidents of leadership consulting firm Cockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors of Building Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they’ll inevitably encounter and be resilient.

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Thanksgiving Blessing

Posted in Community, Culture, Democracy, Global Leadership, Inspirational, Leadership, Thanksgiving, Visionary Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 22, 2018

I was at an event this week when a person made a comment that she was thankful to be in a country that had a holiday for giving thanks. Hers did not. This was really cool, but then, as you know I always do, I got to thinking. I began to wonder how many in our country 🇺🇸 really reflect on, really understand, or really give thanks for the things the original Thanksgiving of the Pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower to form the Plymouth Plantation were giving thanks for. Or, do we reflect on and give thanks for things that George Washington put in his Thanksgiving Proclamation letter to Congress he wrote on October 3, 1789? Or, do we consider being thankful for those things which caused Lincoln to establish the fourth Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving, setting the precedent that remains to this day. Coincidentally, Lincoln’s proclamation of a national holiday was on October 3, 1863, exactly 74 years after George Washington’s Proclamation.

Back to the first Thanksgiving. To really understand the “first Thanksgiving” you must go to the journals of William Bradford, governor of the original Plymouth Plantation and a champion making sure the group on the Mayflower made the trip. In the early 1600’s the Church Of England, under King James I, was persecuting anyone who did not recognize the state’s absolute civil and spiritual authority. In other words, if you varied any from the beliefs of The Church Of England, you were in trouble. So, a group of separatists said “Screw this!” ( I’m paraphrasing here) and fled to Holland. Somehow, I imagine that if I would have been around in the early 1600’s, I would have been leading the “Screw this!” movement. Sorry, back to my story. Those forty Pilgrims, led by William Bradford, joined others 11 years later to make a group comprised of 102 individuals who set sail on the Mayflower on August 1, 1620.

Now, this part of the story I’m sure you know. It was not a pleasure cruise. And, when they finally did arrive in November, it was cold and there was no one there to greet them. The story we are always told in school is that the Native Americans helped them and then they all got together a year later and gave thanks. Now, the Native Americans did help, but that’s not the only thing the Pilgrims were giving thanks for. They had actually experimented with different forms of government and found one that didn’t work and one that did.

The Mayflower Compact, written by William Bradford, established behaviors for the group of 40 Pilgrims. An important part of it was that your religious beliefs did not matter – you could believe and worship how you saw fit. Also, in the Compact it stated that everything produced went into a common store. This is where the experiment began. They had formed a commune. This was collectivism. Nobody had any more than anybody else, nobody had any less, but that did not lead to prosperity. It never does.

In finding that this did not work, Bradford and the Pilgrims had discovered in less than a year that communism/socialism does not work. Its amazing to me, others kept trying. Anyway, Bradford then broke up the plantation into individual plots for everyone and the rest is history. Mass production ensued, the Native Americans played an important role in helping to teach these new Americans how to raise crops efficiently, and trading posts were set up and the Pilgrims were able to pay their debts to England and Holland for the trip.

Bottom-line: the Thanksgiving was for all of the above, including finding a form of government that worked. And, the Pilgrims were able to thank God in any way they saw fit, which was the reason for the trip to start with.

Of course, we also know this successful experiment led to more immigration into the New World. Then, ultimately helped shaped our United States form of government. Then Congress asked George Washington to write a proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1789. Here is a transcript of the proclamation:

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor–and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be–That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions–to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

 Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

~ G Washington

As you can see, we have a lot to be thankful for. I am proud we have this holiday to give thanks in any way we see fit, to worship in any way we see fit, and have a democratic form of government. On this day of Thanksgiving, when I read President Washington’s proclamation, I am thankful to our forefathers for having the audacity, and asking God’s will and help, in “establish[ing] constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us” (Washington, 1789). I am also thankful for the Pilgrims and William Bradford for taking the risk in order to form an experimental community that would later inform our form of government and teach us that no form of socialism works.

We truly do have a lot to be thankful for. I do pray and ask that all nations in the world take heed and practice what George Washington so eloquently put in his Thanksgiving Proclamation when he said, “to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord” (Washington, 1789). My thanksgiving wish is for all nations and each and every one of us to go out and be a Thanksgiving blessing to all people.

“Big Boy” Leadership

This week I went to Nashville, Tennessee with a group of great colleagues from Noble Education Initiative to put on a day of professional development for Trevecca Nazarene University. The day was amazing, and there was some great learning that went on. Really it comes down to being student centric – whether that student is a college pre-service teacher or a pk-k-12 student in our schools. We must deliver our best each and every day.

Our professional development covered the topics of “A Day In The Life Of Our Indy Schools,” Social Emotional Learning, Restorative Justice, and our Eight Step Process for Continuous Academic Improvement. Plus, we started the day with Mr.& Mrs. Potato Heads and participants making their Potato Heads answering the question: what does education look like on you? At the end of the day, participants had the opportunity to reflect and change their potato head answering the statement: now I look like this. Here is the agenda we used for the day:

On the way down to Nashville we saw signs for Frisch’s Big Boy. Since all six of us seemed to have some affinity or fond memories of going to Frisch’s Big Boy, it was decided that is where we would eat on the way home. Needless to say, I was excited because there is just no better hamburger than the Super Big Boy.

On the way home it became quite fun searching for our Big Boy location. Of course, I became “Big Boy” because I am a “Big Boy.” And…I couldn’t wait to get my picture taken with the iconic Frisch’s Big Boy. In fact, the group was so kind to buy me one of the “Big Boy” banks. It is now a treasured item on my desk.

Then I got to thinking about the principles and core values that guided Dave Frisch, the founder of Frisch’s Big Boy restaurants. He founded on the idea of great food, a great work environment that was fun for employees, and a place of integrity. Who could argue with this?

As I did a little Big Boy studying. I found that Frisch’s Restaurants, Inc. use the value of being “Guest Centric.” Being in the field of education this was interesting to me because we use the term “Student Centered” a lot. I like the “guest centric” terminology better, however, because it refers to internal and external guests. The internal guests are employees. Frisch’s wants to provide its best service and support to its employees. I’ve always said in education we need put teachers first so we can put students first. I love that Frisch’s says, “We will be our best every time by delivering our best and being guest centric to our internal and external customers.” I believe this speaks to empowerment, engagement, and professional growth and development of staff, regardless of the industry we are in.

Frisch’s also has a core value of treating everyone as family (employees and customers), too. Their restaurants have a very diverse workforce and customer base. Frisch’s supports each team member through teamwork, coaching and development, fair treatment, and mutual respect.

Do you practice “Big Boy” leadership?

Are You There?

This post is dedicated to the ones who are always there for others. Always there for us. I was reminded of how important those individuals are three times yesterday, in three different instances, and by three different people. These are the ones that are more than just a listener. They are warmth, compassion, insight, strength, aspiration. Sometimes just the person who can help you turn a PDF file into a Word file (I know, a stupid example, right? But a real example, nonetheless). They are that solid boulder when you need help with something. You know, that person that when you have something come up, you just know will come through in a pinch to help.

Think about what the world would be like if we were all striving to be this way. I’ve said in blog posts and many other times before that Jesus is the best leadership example there is, and he said, “And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” Now, if that’s not being there when you need something, I don’t know what is.

This post is just meant to remind us how important being there for others is. Reflect on how important that handful of individuals is to you, that you know you could pick up the phone right now, ask for help, and they would drop everything for you. Are you that same person when they call you?

Now I realize that we can’t always just drop everything every time to help others, but do think about it – you know who you could call right now and who you couldn’t. Maybe, if we all worked just a little harder at leading like Jesus, and being there till the end of time, the world really would be a better place.

Why Everyone Should Read Dopesick

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted AmericaDopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As soon as I finished this book I tweeted, “Anyone who is a public policy maker, educator, or citizen (in other words everyone) needs to read Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors… by Beth Macy. This book tells the history of the #opioidcrisis back to the Civil War until today like none other!” I learned so much history that I did not know. By the time the Civil War ended, addiction had already touched middle-class housewives, immigrants, veterans and even physicians hoping to soothe their own aches and pains. This is when the opioid epidemic began. Between the 1870s and 1880s, America’s per capita consumption of opiates had tripled. On March 1, 1915 a law passed by Congress and signed by one of my favorite Presidents, Woodrow Wilson, would become the first law to criminalize drug use, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act. I also learned that opioids such as morphine and codeine are naturally derived from opium poppy plants more commonly grown in Asia, Central America and South America. Heroin is an illegal drug synthesized from morphine.
Hydrocodone and oxycodone are semi-synthetic opioids, manufactured in labs with natural and synthetic ingredients.

I really like fact that Macy also spent a great deal of time discussing and educating her readers on the public policy component of the opioid crisis. Macy argues that a big obstacle to solving the crisis is that many local, state, and federal agencies and governments are more concerned about protecting turf and budgets than solving the problem and helping people. This book pushed and stretched me to understand this very complex issue.

View all my reviews

Who We Are

After my post yesterday, I really got to thinking about this question of being bigger than something other than ourselves. You can click here to check out All The World’s A Stage. It’s actually pretty simple, however, we are all part of something bigger than ourselves, namely the universe. We often forget this, however, and we stop looking beyond our own body, opinion, experience, well-being, and other self interests. I constantly need to be reminded that, though I am tiny and only temporarily on this earth, I can take action toward outcomes that go beyond my own life, needs, comforts, desires, gains and losses — often through shared work with others, influencing decisions, or helping, coaching, or mentoring others.

Because it was my conversation with Johnny Hawkins, Mark Vollelunga, Daniel Oliver, and Ben Anderson, the band members of Nothing More, that really got me thinking about all this, I am going to point to one of their songs for inspiration. Honestly, I not paid very close attention to the words of their song, Who We Are, until they autographed the poster pictured here in this post, and gave it to me. It has the words to the song in the background. There’s a pretty powerful message in this song that who we are should keep us believing. Click here to watch the video of Who We Are by Nothing More.

“It’s who we are that keeps me believing

There’s something here bigger than ourselves

If I’m wrong then why am I still feeling?

Who we are, keeps me believing

Keeps me believing”

~ Chorus From Who We Are by Nothing More

This is actually very profound. Who we are is much more important than what we do. We need to focus on being bigger on the inside, our character, than we are on the outside, our influence. Think about it, if our character waivers, our influence becomes discounted. We must line our lives up with our values or we will live a life that is out of balance and devoid of the creative energy we need to achieve our true potential.

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? ” ~ Jesus in Mark 8:36

We also need to think about the chorus phrase, “It’s who we are that keeps me believing.” Think about that; it doesn’t say, “who I am” it says, “who we are.” This is profound when we think about leading or being part of our businesses and organizations, our communities, our schools, our country, or the larger aggregate of the world 🌎. Who we are and what we believe in aggregate matters. We need to create organizations, communities, countries, and a world 🌍 where we all matter.

“What we know matters but who we are matters more.” ~ Brené Brown

As it says in Who We Are, I want the “you, that’s in me, [to be] in everything.” Let’s work to create a world where we can “stand together” because of Who We Are!

Leading Without “Virtue Signaling”

Getting Ready To Get On Nothing More’s Tour Bus

Yesterday, I had the rare opportunity to spend time on the tour bus of one of my favorite rock bands before their concert at Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center. The band was Nothing More. Those that know me know I love rock music and still dream of being a rock star. Hey, if my idol, Gene Simmons can still be rockin’ it at age 69, no reason why I don’t still have time, right? Anyway, back to the subject of this post. I believe we all imagine what goes on in a rock band tour bus, but I’ve got to tell you I was amazed by the deep conversation we had. I gotta tell you the conversation yesterday is going to span several blog posts.

First of all, Johnny Hawkins, Mark Vollelunga, Daniel Oliver, and Ben Anderson, the band members of Nothing More, are four of the greatest guys you will ever meet. They are super friendly and very deep and philosophical thinkers. Need I say more for you to understand my gravitation toward them. So, I asked them if they would tell me a little more about one of their songs, DO YOU REALLY WANT IT?,” that I use to introduce a leadership training session I do. Little did I know the great conversation that was about to begin. As I said earlier, the conversation is going to turn into several blog posts, but this morning’s is going to be about something that Johnny Hawkins talked about that really made me pause and think; think about my own actions, as well as others.

Johnny started talking about “virtue signaling.” If you would have told me we were going to talk “virtue signaling” on Nothing More’s tour bus before yesterday, I would have told you you were nuts. But, I gotta tell you, I really wanted to get back on the bus and ride to the next venue, and have one of those all night philosophical discussions. I loved Johnny’s visual description of “virtue signaling” when he took his fingers and made a circle ⭕️ symbolizing a button and held it to his chest. He talked about how this signaling is a camouflage. It’s noticeable how often virtue signalling consists of saying we hate things. Or, many times by saying we are for something, we are saying how much better we are than others. The emphasis on hate distracts from the fact we are really saying how good we are.

“Virtue signaling” is a habit we now have of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas, cultural happenings, or philosophical or religious beliefs. The phrase was coined by the British author, James Bartholomew. When we seize moments to throw a fit about what or who we hate, we many times are not really talking about the real issues or our philosophical differences with another person, we are just showing our vanity and try to signal to others how virtuous we are. As James Bartholomew said, “If you were frank and said, ‘I care about the environment more than most people do’ or ‘I care about the poor more than others’, your vanity and self-aggrandizement would be obvious. . . . Anger and outrage disguise your boastfulness.” In other words we are not talking anything of fact or substance. Johnny pointed out that we really need to take a step back and think about what we can do. This is much tougher than just saying we are going to solve world hunger, eliminate all racism, or make all schools great. Think about it. It is easy to say those things, but a much tougher conversation when we begin to think about what we are personally going to do.

We discussed how we talk about changing the world, but we really need to think about changing the things within the scope of what we can control or affect change. A big part of that is just changing and growing ourselves. That’s why I am so moved by the chorus in the lyrics of the song, DO YOU REALLY WANT IT? where it says, “Everybody wants to change the world, But one thing’s clear, No one ever wants to change themselves.” This is the chorus that I use for a major discussion among up and coming leaders. As you can see, this prompted an inspiring discussion that helped me grow as a person and leader that I have not even begun to scratch the surface on in this post. How about you? Do you really want it? What can you change? Are you willing to change yourself? Or will you “virtue signal” and blame others? Let’s take our “virtue buttons” of our chests and talk about substance and the issues not about the people and personalities.

Leadership Paw Prints

Cam

For those that are regular readers of my blog, you know that I love cats. To be clear, however, we have no cats in the house and none that curl up in my lap to watch TV. Ours are farm/barn cats that play an important role in rodent control and are free to roam the entire farm. Nonetheless, I love them and they are very well taken care of. Ours are not typical barn cats in that these are all pets and are always sitting on bales of hay or up on posts waiting to be petted. And…always lined up ready for me to feed them morning and evening. For me, they are just fun to watch.

This morning it was raining and as I walked through the barn to start the morning feeding I looked down and saw the wet paw 🐾 prints, pictured here in this post, on the barn floor and I knew exactly which cat they were from – Cam. Cam is always the first cat to stir and I knew he would be up on his tower waiting for me to acknowledge him and pet him. Sure enough, there he was. This got me to thinking about what footprints we are leaving behind and what our predictability/dependability is.

As a fan of Winston Churchill, I am reminded of his saying, ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” So what are our footprints doing to make a life? We could even divide this into some of the different roles we play in life.

Think about our role as a parent. Most children imitate their parents, copying mannerisms and ways of responding to situations.  As parents, we walk through life leaving footprints that express the qualities we value for our children to follow. We need to make sure we leave lasting imprints and not ones that quickly dry up and disappear like the wet cat paw 🐾 prints that inspired this post.

We all have mentors/coaches in our professional and personal lives. We need to make sure we are leaving lasting and life-giving footprints for our mentees. Also, we need to make sure to honor and follow in the footprints of our mentors/coaches. By doing so, we honor the people who invested their lives into us and our organizations. By following their footprints, we recognize that we have been given a “step up” by standing on what they have already accomplished.

Footprints clearly leave an impression. The way we lead, transact our personal business, and interact with others should leave an impression, too. We need to make sure the impression we leave has a lasting impression.

Our footprints show where we have been, what we have done, what direction we are headed, and what course corrections we have made along the way. Our footprints are the diary of what we have done. The pattern of your footprints is a testimony to the kind of person and leader we are.

Take a look over your shoulder at your footprints. Do they express the values and actions that you want others to associate with you? Have your footprints made a clear impression? Finally, are your footprints making a lasting impression?

The Implications of What We Call “Level 2” Relationships at Work

The following is an excerpt from Humble Leadership

The Implications of What We Call “Level 2” Relationships at Work

By Ed and Peter Schein

Organizations today are doing all kinds of experiments in how work is defined and are showing great flexibility in how roles and authority are allocated. What we see in these experiments is that they encourage relationships that are more personal. Bosses, direct reports, team members, and resources from other teams are making it a point to get to know each other at a more personal level, fostering more openness and, in time, more trust and the psychological safety to speak up and be heard.

In a Level 2 relationship, I convey that “I see you.” This is not necessarily “I like you” or “I want to be your friend,” or “Let’s get our families together,” but I let you know through my words, demeanor, and body language that I am aware of your total presence, that in this relationship we are working together and are dependent on each other, are trying to trust each other, and should each try to see the other as more than a fellow employee, or associate, or team member, but as a whole person. By conveying that “I see you”, we are also conveying that we will not allow “professional distance” to separate us; we are forming a personal-working bond that will not tolerate obfuscation or deception. Seeing each other as whole persons is primarily a choice that we can make. We already know how to be personal in our social and private lives. Humble Leadership involves making that conscious choice in our work lives.

Six Principles of Humble Leadership

  1. Humble Leadership builds on Level 2 personal relationships that depend on and foster openness and trust.
  2. If Level 2 relationships do not already exist in the workgroup, the emergent humble leader’s first job is to develop trust and openness in the workgroup.
  3. In a Level 2 workgroup Humble Leadership emerges by enabling whoever has pertinent information or expertise to speak up and improve whatever the group is seeking to accomplish.
  4. The process of creating and maintaining Level 2 relationships requires a learning mindset, cooperative attitudes, and skills in interpersonal and group dynamics.
  5. An effective group dealing with complex tasks in a volatile environment will need to evolve such mindsets, attitudes, and skills in all of its members.
  6. Therefore, Humble Leadership is as much a group phenomenon as an individual behavior.

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About Authors

Edgar H. Schein is Professor Emeritus from the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management. He’s a pioneer in organizational studies, organizational culture and leadership, process consulting, career development. Ed’s contributions to the practice of O.D. date back to the early 1960s and continue with the recent publication of Organizational Culture and Leadership 5th edition and now Humble Leadership, co-authored with Peter A. Schein, co-founder of OCLI.org who brings 30 years of hands-on experience in large and small companies leading growth initiatives in Silicon Valley.

A New Approach to Leadership

The following is an excerpt from Humble Leadership

A New Approach to Leadership

By Ed and Peter Schein

This book introduces a new approach to leadership based more on personal relationships than transactional role relationships.

The good news: employee engagement, empowerment, organizational agility, ambidexterity, innovation . . . all of this can flourish in the rapidly changing world when the fundamental relationship between leaders and followers, helpers and clients, and providers and customers becomes more personalized and cooperative.

The bad news: continued deception, scandals, high turnover of disengaged talent, safety and quality problems in industry and health care, all the way to corruption and abuse of power at the highest levels of industry and politics, driven by financial expediency and the obsession with retaining power as primary success criteria . . . all of this will continue to happen as long as leader-follower relationships remain impersonal, transactional, and based on the roles and rules that have evolved in the current culture of management that still predominates in our hierarchical bureaucratic organizations.

The Leader-Follower Relationship

“Leadership” is wanting to do something new and better, and getting others to go along. This definition applies as much to senior executives developing new strategies, new purposes, and new values as it does to a group member down in the organization suggesting a new way of running a meeting or improving a process to drive better results. Both the word new and the word better remind us that leadership always refers to some task that can be improved and to some group whose values and culture will ultimately determine what is better.

What is new and what is better will always depend on context, the nature of the task, and the cultural values that are operating in the group or organization that is doing the work. What we later may label as “good or effective leadership” thus always begins with someone perceiving a new and better way to do something, an emergent leader. Our focus will be not on the individual and the desired characteristics of that emergent leader, but on the relationships that develop between that person and the potential followers who will have influenced what is finally considered to be new and better and who will implement the new way if they agree to try it. Those potential followers will always be some kind of workgroup or team, so our focus will also be on the relationships between them. They may be co-located or widely spread in a network, and their membership may change, but there will always be some kind of grouping involved, hence group dynamics and group processes will always be intimately involved with leadership.

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About Authors

Edgar H. Schein is Professor Emeritus from the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management. He’s a pioneer in organizational studies, organizational culture and leadership, process consulting, career development. Ed’s contributions to the practice of O.D. date back to the early 1960s and continue with the recent publication of Organizational Culture and Leadership 5th edition and now Humble Leadership, co-authored with Peter A. Schein, co-founder of OCLI.org who brings 30 years of hands-on experience in large and small companies leading growth initiatives in Silicon Valley.