Friday, October 7, 2011

Learning from Washington

Effective leadership solutions emerge around problems - change comes from a shared sense of urgency. George Washington’s visionary leadership emerged during the time of America’s birth. He was a great uniter and was crucial in bringing together diverse groups of people and establishing a new nation, where none stood before. Washington’s role became synonymous with the cause of America. He drew on his popularity and symbolic importance to bring unity to a disparate collection of interests and political outlooks. Drawing on lessons learned during the war, when Washington forged the Continental Army into what he called “one patriotic band of brothers,” Washington promoted political unity during the war by mediating the disputes among the army, the states, and the Continental Congress. He continued this work of unifying even after the war as President.
Some of the main lessons that I drew from my research on Washington include:
a. The need and importance to take responsibility for one's own life by controlling one's emotions; Washington had a volcanic temper which, with rare exceptions, he kept under control. Washington was able to control so much externally because he first learned to control himself from within.
b. The importance of constant learning by observing, listening, reading and reflecting; Washington spent much time reflecting or pondering.
c. The importance of civility – essentially basic respect for everyone.
d. The role that morality and emotional maturity can play in enhancing one's natural intelligence and understanding of situations.
e. The inextricable relationship in a democracy between public and personal virtue; the absence of one will always cause a diminution in the other and vice versa.
f. The need in a democracy for all citizens to be good citizens and for the government to be administered in such a manner as to merit the trust of the citizens.
Of all the Founding Fathers of the United States, George Washington alone demonstrated fully the characteristics of a visionary leader and the intellectual and moral capacity, over a long period of time and in the course of manifold difficulties, to maintain coherency between long range ideas and goals and short term actions. The future of society, to a large extent, depends upon citizens and leaders both personally and publicly developing the kind of character so fully and brilliantly seen in George Washington's personal and public lives.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Leadership Lessons from Washington: The Indispensable Man

The following is a review of The Indispensable Man by James T. Flexner.
The Indispensable Man
            James Thomas Flexner originally wrote this biography in four volumes. The book is organized chronologically and proceeds from Washington’s birth in 1732 to his death in 1799. I found the book enriching, and it raised my interest in developing a more sophisticated political understanding  of early American history. Above all I valued this book for its humanization of a legend.The Washington that emerges from these pages is a man of dazzling personal qualities, many failures, passion, strong affections and loyalties, and tremendous character.
 George Washington, in this book, truly comes across as the indispensable man. Without him the revolution would not have been successful, and that if it had been successful, the Nation formed as a result of that American Revolution would have soon come apart and resolved itself into thirteen or more individual competing countries. Washington first holds the Continental Army together against all odds and at the expense of his own health and financial interests. Then after spending eight years in retirement at Mount Vernon, Washington is called back into public life and given the responsibility of first moderating the Constitutional Convention, and then of presiding over a new, fledgling nation with deep sectional and philosophical rifts in opinion, culture and practice. If he could not bring Jefferson and Hamilton and their followers together in the end, he at least managed to keep them from tearing the nation apart while they attacked each other and each other’s ideas and policies. In the portrayal in this book, Washington stands head-and-shoulders above all the other men of his time. Even late in his second term, when the author says several times that Washington is “losing his mental powers” and becoming weak and vacillating, he remains an admirable figure, one who is trying to do his best to serve the nation that has called upon him to give his best years to its service.
            In the book, Flexner takes us through Washington's life from his youth as an obscure younger son from the backwoods of Virginia through his days as a soldier, a general, a planter, and a statesman, to his death in December of 1799. As for character, the Washington of this biography is a self-controlled man, fond of company and friends, but also temperate, quiet, a peacemaker, nevertheless at infrequent times giving way to an enormous temper.
            Disillusionment is good when it is able to get us behind the myths - not in order to tear them down, but — as in the case of learning about Washington — to more fully appreciate the impact of the very human figures made remarkable by history. At every turn America as a young country was in peril; every decision was layered with implications, competing passions, political pettiness, danger. Though this country was established by flawed men, it has not only survived, but risen to meet its ideals – and this was made possible by the pioneering leadership of George Washington. The Washington that emerges from these pages is a man of:
Impressive personal qualities –”The most significant aspect of Washington’s early career was that it took place at all. Every responsibility he assumed required public selection and support. When he was hardly beyond his teens, many of his associates were already convinced that his destiny was importantly linked to the destiny of America.”
Many failures — “Writers have contended that he was so incompetent that he would have been defeated by any other human beings except the dullards the British sent against him… The debate has overlooked the fact that Washington was never really a soldier. He was a civilian in arms.”
Passion and Commitment — In Manhattan in 1776, Washington rides toward the musket fire to find his men in full retreat. “Washington galloped after them, shouted, struck at them with his riding whip, but to no avail. He threw his hat on the ground, crying out, ‘Are these the men with whom I am to defend America?’ And again, ‘Good God! Have I got such troops as these?’ Unwilling to follow the retreat, Washington soon loomed on horseback, alone. Some fifty of the enemy dashed towards him. He watched them without moving. Had not aides galloped up and pulled him away, he would have been killed or captured.”
Strong affections and loyalties — Often betrayed by those close to him, envied, plotted against, and lied about, he was never defeated in his essential optimism and liking for people.
Tremendous character — He does the difficult but right thing without fail. One example: he was the only Virginia founding father to free all of his slaves.
A self-educator — This is evident throughout Washington’s long career as a precedent-setting political figure, but to me the most striking examples are his remaking of his Virginia farm as an entity independent of England, and his ability to learn the value of the ragtag Continental army and develop an ability to use it strategically.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A study in Leadership: His Excellency George Washington

The following is a book review of His Excellency George Washington by Joseph Ellis.

His Excellency

In this book, Joseph Ellis contends that among America’s founding fathers, Franklin was the wisest, Hamilton the most brilliant, Jefferson the most intellectual, Adams the greatest scholar and Madison the most sophisticated politician. Yet they all acknowledged Washington as their superior (although it’s not certain they believed this at all times). Explaining his greatness is a minor historical industry because, unlike his great contemporaries, George Washington rarely explained himself. Joseph Ellis attempts to do just this in His Excellency George Washington.

Great Britain would have avoided plenty of trouble by granting Washington a commission. In leading Virginia troops during the French and Indian War he showed talent, but he was refused commission — a crushing disappointment. Although the war was not over, he gave up his dream of a military career and resigned in 1758.
 Washington belonged to minor Virginia gentry, so marrying the extremely wealthy Martha Custis in 1758 was a step up in a sense for his social standing. He quickly, settled into the life of a Virginia planter: fox hunting, horse racing, gambling and ordering clothes and luxury goods from England. But he also kept a watchful eye on his properties. He was quick to accuse merchants of cheating or to sue over contract disputes, and he grew increasingly angry at mounting bills from his English agent. During this time, his correspondence and diary consist primarily of business matters, lists, weather reports and daily chores. As a consequence, many bored historians have concluded that he lacked depth. Ellis merely concludes that he was sensible. After all, Washington died wealthy, unlike Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and most Virginia aristocrats. More significant, Ellis adds, is that his resentment of England had less to do with unfair taxes than simply with being economically dependent on a nation that refused to treat him as an equal. Dressed in his old uniform, Washington attended every 1775 meeting of the Continental Congress during debate over choosing a commander in chief, quietly letting it be known that he was available. Since he was already chairman of four committees on military affairs and universally respected, he was the obvious — and unanimous — choice.

Most historians agree that Washington made a mess of the defense of New York in 1776, but he then recovered brilliantly with victories in minor engagements at Trenton and Princeton. After two more defeats, he lost Philadelphia in 1777. Then followed the miserable winter at Valley Forge, caused, Ellis emphasizes, more by the inability of colonial governments to supply the army than by the severe weather. Leaving Valley Forge, Washington fought the inconclusive Battle of Monmouth in June 1778. Until Yorktown three years later, other battles occurred but none with Washington in charge. General John Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga, followed by the French alliance in early 1778, made victory inevitable but only in hindsight. Achieving it required a massive infusion of French troops and money, amazing luck and persistent British incompetence. Even more unlikely, it required Washington’s half-starved army to seem threatening to British forces who outnumbered them even after Yorktown.

Throughout the war, Washington appears to be the only founding father who mattered. All European governments assumed that he represented America. After French forces arrived in 1780, their leading officers debated whether or not Washington was a great general. They concluded that it was impossible to tell until he led a proper army. But that didn’t matter as the French loved Washington as a person anyway. Ellis claims that out of Washington’s wartime service came many of his major contributions to the nation. Although he yearned to fight, he had the genius to realize that sometimes, fighting was a bad idea. Waiting and threatening could sometimes be very effective. Ellis adds that Washington’s posture during the Revolution contributed to a general understanding of the importance of civilian government. For eight years he deferred to the Continental Congress and 13 colonial governments, all of which failed him repeatedly. Then he retired — a rare example of a revolutionary general not making himself dictator. That experience, Ellis points out, also led Washington to understand and fight for the ratification of our Constitution. Those years of trying to extract support for his tattered army convinced the general that America desperately needed a central government with power to levy taxes to defend the nation. Revolutionaries disagreed, pointing out that it was taxes levied by a remote central government that provoked America’s revolt. Correctly viewing the Constitution as counterrevolutionary, many vehemently opposed it. Its passage would have been inconceivable without Washington’s support and the expectation by a respectful country that he would be the first president.

Some historians portray Washington as founder of the "Virginia dynasty" that produced four of the first five US presidents. Ellis insists he was not. A Virginia party existed, but Washington did not support it. As the dominant state in the union, Virginia took for granted that its interests came first; its party’s leader, Jefferson, agreed. This meant, for example, that agriculture was all-important, and commerce a bad thing. Washington never took this position, and he never stopped trying to convince Americans that they belonged to a single united nation. He was the country’s first and greatest nationalist — another major contribution to the nation’s sense of self.

It is said that competent historians get their facts right,  good historians draw conclusions - but the best historians have insights. Ellis' insights are very helpful in understanding Washington as a leader. Ellis declares: He was "that rarest of men: a supremely realistic visionary….His genius was his judgment." As a general he made mistakes but not one that put the war at risk. As president, he made all the right decisions. In closing, Ellis contends that His Excellency George Washington was the only great American who was recognized as great as soon as he stepped on the stage and whose reputation has never declined.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

George Washington: Founding Father

This post is a review of the book Founding Father by Richard Brookhiser.  
Founding Father
For much of America's history, George Washington was treated as something of a demigod. Early biographers like Parson Weems and Chief Justice John Marshall, however different their styles and scholarly standards, wrote in a spirit of patriotic reverence and described a man seemingly without any flaws. In contrast, few Americans today would consider Washington a demigod. Revisionist historians have tended to paint us a figure of an individual who is all too human—a greedy land speculator, a mediocre general, a suggestible politician. But flagging respect for the first President of the United States has a deeper cause than revisionist literature. As Richard Brookhiser, a senior editor at National Review, argues in Founding Father, the issue is that people now tend to take American nationhood for granted. Many see American nationhood as an inevitable step in the march of a historical trend which determined democracy or imperialism, enlightenment or patriarchy. Along the way, many seem to have lost sight of the fact that “ideas require men to bring them to earth.”
Richard Brookhiser does not try to revive the Washington cult of the 19th century. Nor does he try to reconstruct and defend every important decision of Washington's career. Brookhiser presents a “moral biography” of the first President - an analysis of the extraordinary but altogether human traits that made him so indispensable to the early republic. Aiming to write “in the tradition of Plutarch,” whose accounts of noble Greeks and Romans were a formative influence on the American Founders themselves, Brookhiser tries to give us a portrait that will continue to instruct us today—a task at which he succeeds, but not completely.
The first part of Founding Father assumes the form of a historical narrative. Brookhiser reminds us that Washington personally dominated American public life for nearly a quarter-century, a longer period than any other figure in our history. As Commander of the Continental Army from 1775 until peace with Britain was concluded in 1783, as president of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, and as chief executive from 1789 to 1797, he oversaw the long struggle from independence to nationhood. Entering the political realm as a celebrated soldier, he left as the most admired of civilians—no mean feat in an age equally capable of producing an autocrat like Napolean Bonaparte.
Washington's awareness of his own problematic role in establishing a republican political order provides the central theme of Brookhiser's biographical sketch. Time and again, Washington turned away from opportunities for personal aggrandizement to demonstrate his devotion to popular, civilian rule. The episodes are familiar: his resignation of command immediately after the signing of the Treaty of Paris; his rebukes to those who whispered to him suggestively of monarchy; his reluctance to reenter public life after his military career; and, finally, his insistence on leaving the presidency after his second term. “Washington's last service to his country,” Brookhiser rightly observes, “was to stop serving.” This is something that many contemporary leaders would do well to emulate - especially the leaders in the Middle-East, who continue to cling on desperately to power, at tremendous cost to their population. 
What, then, was the character of the man behind these deeds? This question lies at the heart of Founding Father, and Brookhiser begins to answer it in an unusual but illuminating way: he describes the raw elements with which nature endowed Washington—most particularly, great physical stature and an irascible temper. Washington displayed the former to striking effect in such activities as riding and dancing; the latter he directed into the channels of courage and spirited determination. By means of both, he learned how to make the impact necessary to lead.
As for Washington's “second” nature—the habits and precepts that guided his conduct—Brookhiser properly rejects the notion, favored by many students of the founding era, that he was some kind of self-styled Roman throwback, a Cato in cocked hat and breeches. Washington no doubt did draw inspiration from the public-spiritedness and self-control of the ancients, but their virtues were too “inhumane” to be his standard. A liberal republic required an ethic of a different sort.
Washington found this ethic, Brookhiser plausibly claims, in the “Rules of Civility,” a long set of principles that for years instructed English schoolboys. Some of these rules, which Washington copied out in his own hand as a young man, have not aged well: “Kill no vermin, or fleas, lice, ticks, etc., in the sight of others”; “Spit not in the fire.” But many more reflect the timeless demands of social intercourse in a regime based on the idea of political equality: “Every action done in company ought to be done with some sign of respect to those who are present”; “Artificers and persons of low degree” should be treated “with affability and courtesy, without arrogance.” For Washington, Brookhiser notes, politeness was “the first form of politics.” 
Brookhiser does not shy away from examining some of the more troubling aspects of Washington's character and principles. He finds nothing objectionable, for example, in Washington's seeming obsession with reputation and role-playing. If we today “worry about our authenticity—about whether our presentation reflects who we ‘really’ are”—18th-century Americans attended more to the outside story and were less avid to drive putty knives between the outer and inner man. . . . Every man had a character to maintain; every man was a character actor.”
Yet is concentration on the “outside story,” on the opinions of others, always so admirable a quality in a leader, even a democratic one? One senses a forerunner of today's political spin control in Washington's query to an adviser shortly before the Constitutional Convention: “Inform me confidentially what the public expectation is on this head, that is, whether I will, or ought to be there.” A similar concern for popular standing can be seen at other key points in Washington's career, from his earliest days of command in the French and Indian War to his acceptance of the presidency. In the end, of course, Washington usually did what he considered right rather than what was sure to win applause. Though a firm advocate of freedom of conscience, Washington had difficulty describing an affirmative role for religion in American life. He neither inspired personal religious devotion in others nor successfully attached the national cause to some transcendent purpose, as Lincoln would later do. Instead, one often detects in him the cold instrumentalism of the Enlightenment, as in the following passage from the Farewell Address:
"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them."
The book closes with Brookhiser's reflection on Washington's status as “the father” of the country. Brookhiser urges us to emulate America's first President—to curb and direct our passions, to treat our fellow citizens with civility and respect, and, above all, to perform the duties of free government no less energetically than we claim its rights. While many have engaged themselves critiquing and deconstructing Washington, and ascribing every conceivable injustice to him and his contemporaries, it is truly refreshing to be reminded what the life of George Washington still has to teach us.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ethically Motivated Connective Leadership - Case 4

South Africa – Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela is a statesman of real stature. His story is one of outstanding moral courage against seemingly impossible odds, of determination to destroy apartheid, and above all – tireless efforts to bring about reconciliation in his homeland. Mandela reveals many of the qualities of a connective leader. Prof. Jean Lipman-Blumen notes that a connective leadership approach utilizes three different achieving styles – direct, relational, and instrumental. The direct achieving style has been the approach that has been traditionally adopted by leaders. In this style, the leader masters his/her own tasks while achieving progress towards the goal. In the relational style, the leader achieves progress by contributing to team-members tasks. In the instrumental style, the leader maximizes interactions between individual team members and empowers them to work collectively towards success. Lipman-Blumen points that in today’s interconnected world, leaders need to utilize not just one, but rather all of the achieving styles – resulting in a connective style of leadership. For a detailed illustration of the connective leadership model, see figure in my previous posting on connective leaders (Lipman-Blumen, 1996).
Nelson Mandela’s inner strength, magnanimity, confidence in humanity, optimism, patience and tolerance, a strong sense of justice, and an unswerving loyalty to his colleagues are attributes that enhance his connective leadership approach. He was born in 1918, as the eldest son of a Xhosa chief (the Xhosas are the second biggest tribe in South Africa after the Zulus). After training as a lawyer, he joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was a leader of the ANC’s non-violent campaigns against apartheid during the 1950s. After police killed 69 unarmed black protesters at Sharpeville in 1960, Mandela and other Congress leaders abandoned increasingly their hopes for peaceful change. In 1961, they formed the Congress’ military wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe (The Spear of the Nation). Mandela was subsequently arrested for incitement, and jailed for life for sabotage, which he openly admitted. At his trial, Mandela spoke of ‘the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve, but if need be an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’
            As Mandela began his long sojourn in Robben Island, the harsh outpost of the South African prison system, he resolved that he would not allow this cruel experience to remove his dignity as a person from him. His jailor, James Gregory notes how Mandela stood tall among all other prisoners, as a leader with a spirit that would not be intimidated. After his release from prison, Mandela showed the rare quality of magnanimity, rising above pettiness and resentment. He did not once express bitterness towards the white community for his grim ordeal in the prisons, only against the system that they imposed. Upon his release from prison, he called for the black community to exhibit generosity of spirit and on the day of his election (27th April 1994), he spoke of the need to give the white minority ‘confidence and security.’ It is such generosity of spirit that makes Nelson Mandela one of the world’s most significant moral leaders since Mahatma Gandhi. One of his greatest achievements has been to work to connect and unite the diverse communities that make up South Africa. With his immense moral authority gained by the patient and magnanimous bearing of adversity, Mandela demonstrates it is possible to be a servant-leader, one who serves by leading and leads to serve. He has shown the world that a lofty and courageous spirit enables a leader to confront difficult situations calmly, rise above pettiness and revenge, and make sacrifices for worthy ends. This can also alter the mood of an entire nation.
            Vision, humility, and courage are the hallmarks of the leadership seen in Nelson Mandela. The characteristics, along with professional competence or ability, are much sought after by free and equal people around the world. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Model of Successful Development of Leadership from Within - The Art of Living Foundation

One organization that is working to help leaders and future leaders develop themselves from the “inside out” is the Art of Living Foundation. The Foundation teaches stress-reducing breathing techniques to people from all factions of life including leaders and employees in organizations, aspiring leaders, school children, and communities. These techniques are coupled with meditations and psychological maxims that help people gain the willingness and capability to reframe their approach to life.
Established by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as a non-profit, educational, and humanitarian organization in 1981, the Foundation has chapters in more than 140 countries. The sustainable development projects, trauma-relief, and self-development programs conducted by the organization are reported to have benefited more than 25 million people around the world. By nurturing the spirit of service and compassion in every individual, the Foundation seeks to build a global society that is free of stress and violence.
The breathing techniques taught in the Art of Living program have been researched medically, and are shown to have multiple beneficial impacts such as the reduction of Serum Cortisol (the stress hormone), an increase in the beta wave activity in the brain (showing better integration of the right and left brain), reduction in bad cholesterol (with a simultaneous increase in good cholesterol) among other benefits.
The maxims taught in the program encourage acceptance of diversity, demonstrate and show the complementary nature of opposites such as happiness and sadness, encourage independent thinking and collective action, promote a culture of responsible behavior, and encourage considered responses rather than impulsive reactions to situations.
Through this mixture of breathing techniques, meditation, and maxims that aid day-to-day leadership decisions, the Art of Living program has helped to cultivate a more conscious “inner” core of people encouraging them to be ethical and connective leaders.
Among the most interesting benefits of the program is an acknowledgment of a “heightened sense of belongingness” among the participants, who often report they feel more connected to the people around them, and are ready to take responsibility for the well-being of their communities, their nations, and the world.
In an interview dated August 3, 2003, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar indicated that “the big C of corruption can be countered by 5Cs – Connectedness, Courage, Cosmology (understanding life events in a larger context), Care, and Commitment. A lack of connectedness or sense of belongingness breeds corruption in society. That is why, often, you see people looking for connections, in order to avoid corruption! A sense of belongingness among people, among the community, can root out corruption.
The Art of Living's programs in essence appear to be designed to promote the above cited 5Cs, and as such offers a promising model to develop the “inner” leader who is both ethical and connective, and determined to act in the best interest of society.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ethically Motivated Connective Leadership - Case 3

Philippines - Secretary Benjamin Diokno

In the fall of 1998, Benjamin Diokno was appointed Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). Diokno, a U.S. trained economist with a background in public administration, had a strong interest in pushing reforms of the country’s budgeting system. Diokno is an example of a connective leader who used his direct, instrumental, and relational skills to bring about procurement reform in the Philippines. He had already served as an Undersecretary for the department (1987-91) under then President Corazon Aquino, and from that experience recognized the need for reforms in the budget process. Reforms in budget formulation had been initiated during the succeeding administration of President Fidel Ramos (1993-98) under the guidance of Emilia Boncodin, an Undersecretary who retired at the end of Ramos’ term. Diokno urged his staff to carry on the reforms that had been initiated previously, and shepherded the young and energetic group that Boncodin had nurtured during her stewardship. Diokno also reached out and connected with collaborators from other arms of the government, the judiciary, and retired civil servants – and created a tightly knit group of reform-minded government officials. He conducted in-depth studies of the procurement process and proposed the implementation of a well-thought out communication strategy that would garner support for the reform initiative. By launching the Procurement Watch Institute (PWI), Diokno and his peers ensured the establishment of checks-and-balances through the involvement of civil society. By obtaining the support of progressive legislators who knew how to traverse the complex legislative maze, Diokno was able to get the procurement reforms passed in Parliament. 

The quest to reform the legal underpinnings of public procurement in the Philippines took more than three years to achieve, punctuated with many bouts of frustration. Getting from the “bad” equilibrium to a “good” equilibrium did not occur instantaneously with the derivation of a fancy mathematical formula or the signing of a loan or grant agreement with specific conditionalities. It involved considerable painstaking efforts of many dedicated individuals who together anticipated what events might turn up each day, and handled those events that did occur in order to keep the momentum going.

If there is an overarching lesson from the Philippine experience with public procurement reform, it is the necessity of creating a “well-oiled machine” that is capable of responding to unanticipated events as the reform process unfolds. The path from the status quo to the desired state is littered with uncertainty. What is needed then is a mechanism that enables reformers to deal with this uncertainty on a day-to-day basis. This goes beyond the basic adage of forming a coalition to support a reform effort. It means that members of that coalition must be knit tightly into a well-coordinated team that can develop and implement strategy as events unfold. How this is done will differ from case to case and country to country. It will likely include a few core elements.

First, it will be necessary to form a cadre of reformers within the Executive. In this world of stage three leadership, having a so-called champion is not sufficient, for he or she will necessarily need a core group to depend on to move things along within the government. Moreover, as is typically the case, a champion becomes a clear target of affected vested interests and so will often be the focus of their counteractions. Having a core group of dedicated individuals limits the impact of these actions: Even if the champion is forced to go, there still will be others left to step up to the plate. Second, this cadre needs to be armed with sufficient technical knowledge and tools pertinent to the reform in question. The reformers must be able to respond objectively, definitively, and confidently to these attempts to “keep people’s eyes on the ball.” Third, the core group within government will need support from well-organized allies in civil society and the business community. Outside pressure will almost always be needed to counter the inherent advantage of vested interests. The latter are generally few in number but highly motivated and often tightly knit. Well-organized allies create another battlefront that helps dilute the attention and efforts of these interests. Finally, an aspect that is often underappreciated, a strategic and sustained media campaign must be developed to support the reformers and their allies. In the end, the attention and support of the greater public is what will likely make the difference. There is no real substitute to an effective media campaign in harnessing this good will and support.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ethically Motivated Connective Leadership - Case 2

Bhutan - King Jigme Singye Wangchuck
Connective leaders commit themselves to long-term goals, and through their authenticity, encourage their constituents to participate in the execution of these goals. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck shared a vision with his constituents advocating that Gross National Happiness (GNH), instead of GNP, would measure the country’s development progress. He insisted that happiness and well-being of all people is the ultimate goal. The leadership of the king of Bhutan became a model for developing countries.
King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who succeeded to the throne in 1972, surprised people by announcing that he wanted to give up much of his power as a monarch. Unlike stage two leaders, the king did not cling to his authority. He did not try to control citizens but entrusted them with responsibility and power, with the conviction that they must play an integral role in molding an ideal nation. He began to decentralize the power of the government so that people could participate more in decision-making. The king himself was closely involved in leading a change in Bhutan. When he drafted a constitution, the king studied more than 50 constitutions from other countries, and promoted the discussion of a new constitution in every district. Furthermore, he sent out a copy of the draft constitution to every household in Bhutan, a document that even described steps for the king’s own impeachment. Thus, Wangchuck mobilized citizens and engaged them in implementing a shared vision.
During the process of modernizing Bhutan, Wangchuck acted as an ethical leader with a long-term vision. Despite the fact that Bhutan could attract much foreign interest by logging and selling teakwood, he maintained a policy that the proportion of the tree cover must be kept above 60%. He perceived the vast forest of Bhutan as an important resource and the key to Bhutan becoming an independent and sustainable economy.
Indeed, the king’s actions often seemed unorthodox for his constituents. However, because of his authenticity and ethical actions, the king successfully built trust with the people, and together they achieved a great change in the government, economy, and society of Bhutan.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ethically-Motivated Connective Leadership (Case 1)

Connective leaders understand their skill sets and complement them through collaboration with others. MacLean-Abaroa was the first democratically elected mayor of La Paz, Bolivia, and was reelected four times between 1985 and 1991 to this office. As mayor of La Paz, MacLean-Abaroa successfully brought together various stakeholders like government officials, civil society organizations, and users of public service, and implemented a reform in La Paz municipality.
When MacLean-Abaroa was first elected as mayor of La Paz in 1985, the government of Bolivia was encountering a hyperinflation crisis. At the same time, La Paz, the administrative capital city of Bolivia, was struggling with finance deficits, poor infrastructure, and service delivery. Promising a drastic change at the municipal level, MacLean-Abaroa won 52% of the votes from La Paz citizens.
Realizing that he needed knowledge to define problems and explore possible solutions, MacLean-Abaroa invited Prof. Robert Klitgaard, a public policy expert with whom he had studied at Harvard, to La Paz. Working closely together, they exposed existing corruption within the municipal organization and devised a restructuring plan. Lipman-Blumen (1996) noted that connective leaders perceive others as “collaborators” and “supporters” rather than “superiors” or “followers,” and value their advice.
As a connective leader in the globalized world, MacLean-Abaroa also recognized the importance of diversity. During the process of the reform, he formed a diverse consulting team to improve service delivery. A team including four consultants from the city of Curitiba took the initiative for the project, while two other groups supported the team; one consisted of summer interns from MIT and Harvard, and another made up the Bolivia Joven Group - skilled, enthusiastic graduates under 30 years old. These key staff not only helped improve public service in La Paz, but also became role models within the organization, thus reinforcing efficiency and eliminating a culture of pervasive corruption in municipality. Through his strategic efforts, MacLean-Abaroa ultimately brought much needed reform to La Paz. The city successfully financed $6.2 million for public services which were effectively delivered, and corruption was controlled.
Ronald MacLean-Abaroa has since become a prominent Bolivian politician, been one of the founding members of Transparency International, and is now a leading international expert in anti-corruption and leadership programs at the World Bank. He has held five national cabinet positions under three different Bolivian presidents including planning, foreign affairs, information and communications, finance, and development.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Leadership from Within

The challenges we face today means that leadership today must be chiefly concerned with serving society - rather than merely advancing their own ideas, ambitions or sense of privilege. One way of helping leaders understand the true purpose of leadership is to help them connect to their inner-self – look within for inspiration to serve in the outside world.
To speak of "ethical leadership" in today's world seems a contradiction in terms. Almost every day, headlines tell of the disgrace, downfall, imprisonment or forced resignation of a political, corporate, religious, or community leader somewhere around the world.
The long arm of corruption reaches every faction of humanity, from the individual to the societal level, with devastating consequences. Corruption not only affects growth and investment, but also influences the norms and moral standards of societies. It is well recognized as a pervasive phenomenon that can seriously jeopardize the best-intentioned reform efforts and impair the long-term prospects of a country. Combating corruption requires strong institutions characterized by clear and transparent rules, fully functioning checks and balances - including strong enforcement mechanisms and a robust competitive environment - and most importantly, the grooming of ethical leaders who ensure the strengthening and sustainability of libertarian institutions.
Of these corruption-combating methods, the most crucial and perhaps the least understood is ethical leadership. Without the example of ethical leadership enacted with integrity, there is no model for society to follow or to which to be held accountable. But one ethical leader standing alone does not have much leverage unless he/she is also “a connective leader”. Because a connective leader is skilled at building a network of ennobled, entrusted, and empowered constituents and is motivated by an ethical core, the connective leader can be a very powerful conduit of change.
But ethically-motivated connective leadership is rare. Conventional leadership development programs focus on the external aspects of leadership – e.g., how to run effective meetings, how to gather a following, how to motivate people to do what the leader wants. Instructing leaders on how to be a connective leader requires a high level of self-knowledge, or even spiritual inputs (different from religious or moral inputs; rather a focus on enabling the participant to have a better look at one’s own self, free of stress and anxieties) and interpersonal skills on the leader’s part – none of which are easy to teach. But training leaders to act from an ethical core is that much more challenging, if not impossible some might say, because of the deeply personal nature of ethics. However, there is anecdotal evidence to show that the returns of such training can have a lasting beneficial impact on the society in general, and against corruption in particular.
Ultimately, the fight against corruption comes down to the conviction to do so, born out of the ethical essence of the individual leader. It is the convictions, personal motivations, and underlying beliefs that drive the actions of leaders. “Leadership is intensely individual and personal” (Burns, 1978, p. 33). If the values of a leader are developed in childhood (Burns, 1978), then can any leadership development program have an effect on the ethical definitions and actions of both current and future leaders?
It leads us to the question of whether leadership can be developed or is an innate trait that cannot be developed. However, if we operate from the hypothesis that given the choice, many “responsible” leaders would choose to act from their highest values, then helping leaders connect back into their ethical core is perhaps the key. In other words, leadership development from the “inside out” rather than the “outside in,” or the development of the “inner” leader. More on this soon...