Printer Friendly

Leadership moment by moment!

Two monks, Tanzan and Ekido, were walking down a country road on their way to visit a local monastery. They came upon a lovely young girl dressed in fine silks, who was standing in front of a muddy stream afraid to cross it.

"Come on, girl," said Tanzan. And he picked her up in his arms, and carried her across. The two monks did not speak again till nightfall when they had returned to the monastery. Ekido couldn't keep quiet any longer.

"Monks shouldn't go near girls," he said - "certainly not beautiful ones like that one! Why did you do it?"

"My dear fellow," said Tanzan. "I put that girl down, way back at the crossing. It's you who are still carrying her! (Peter Pauper Press, Zen Buddhism, 1959).

There are many muddy paths that people must cross in today's organizations and leadership needs to be clear, decisive and appropriate to the situation. Tanzan in the above story shows unique leadership. He sees the situation and is able to do what is needed. He is not encumbered by ideas, rules and procedures but looks at what is needed. Even more importantly, he is able to move down the road after the event with a clear mind. He lets go of any anxiety about whether he acted rightly or wrongly. Tanzan would have been able to see and respond to the next action because his mind is not still carrying his last action.

Ekido, however, is still carrying his judgements, thoughts and concerns. Ekido needs rules and procedures to control him in his journey. On the outside Ekido may look like the "perfect" monk - but inside he is torn by the rules of being a monk and needs these rules to manage his inner yearnings. While concepts, rules and ideas may help guide a person in training, a true leader carries his/her mission in his/her heart - it is not external rules that make the person. The leader models the way not by following outer form but by seeing their work as their way of being.

Recent reviews of the research and theories on leadership have consolidated the key areas of leadership into personality, situational/transactional and transformational forms of leadership. The purpose of this paper is to suggest that concepts about leadership are useful background to understand leadership but they need to be integrated into more immediate, practical and simpler ways of guiding leadership action. It is suggested that there are several key skills that a leader can employ which have been described in both western and eastern philosophies. The story of Ekido and Tanzan is one of the many lessons that these traditions can contribute to our current thinking of organizational leadership. The development of this "leadership wisdom" is put forward as a real need in the current environment with its confusing and often contradictory emphasis on improving both profits and quality of service.

The study of leadership - what have we learned?

There is a great deal of literature on leadership and the field has many specific streams such as decision making, leader-follower interaction, power of the leader, cultural and gender differences of leadership and many other concepts that have made important contributions to our understanding. For the purpose of examining leadership in action, however, three key areas of leadership theory will be briefly reviewed; personality, situational/transactional and transformational leadership since these are the major themes that emerge in the literature (Robbins et al., 1994).

Personality traits of leaders

Early research attempting to find consistent and unique personality traits that all leaders possessed showed no definite pattern. More recent studies have found six traits that differentiate leaders from non-leaders; honesty and integrity, high energy level, ambition and the desire to lead, intelligence, self-confidence and task relevant knowledge (Kilpatrick and Locke, 1991; Stogdill, 1974).

The results of a study by Kouzes and Posner (1993) show the six highest characteristics that people most admire in leaders are:

1 Honesty. 2 Forward looking. 3 Inspiring. 4 Competent. 5 Fair-minded. 6 Supportive.

Situational/transactional leadership

A second major focus of leadership training and theory as a result of the Michigan and Ohio State studies and the contingency theory of Fiedler lead to the situational leadership approach. The theory of Ken Blanchard called Situational Leadership II uses the two dimensions of supportive and directive to describe four leadership styles that are most appropriate depending on the situation and the developmental level of the person or group. The major advance of the situation approach is the recognition that for different development levels and different types of situations, different leadership styles are more effective. For example, in an emergency or when someone is learning a skill for the first time, it is better according to situational leadership to be highly directive (spell out tasks and goals very clearly) and less supportive.

Situational leadership is one of several "transactional" approaches to leadership. Other transactional theories like path-goal theory and leader-participation theory describe the major task of the leader to guide and motivate their followers in the direction of established goals and to reward their efforts in ways that are fair and valued by the follower.

Transformational leadership

The third major approach goes a step further and helps lift the follower beyond personal goals and self-interests to focus on goals which contribute to a greater team, organizational, national and world good. Transformational leadership communicates a vision that inspires and motivates people to achieve something extraordinary. Transformational leaders also have the ability to align people and systems so there is an integrity throughout the organization towards this vision (Hughes et al., 1994). Transformational leaders have a vision and an ability to inspire followers to incorporate higher values. It pulls them towards achieving an important challenge. These leaders pay attention to the concerns and developmental needs of the followers, they change followers by helping them to look at old problems in new ways and they are able to excite, arouse and inspire followers to put out extra effort to achieve group goals. In addition, the follower takes on and understands the vision as their own. If the transformation leader leaves, the followers continue the effort to achieve the vision. While this brief review does not presume to do justice to the field of leadership studies, there are several key points regarding good leadership which do emerge.

Leaders do have the characteristics of "good" people, they are honest, have self-confidence and are fair-minded and supportive. Successful leaders are sensitive to the situation and their followers, are flexible, and able to adapt to the situation to ensure that the vision is achieved. A challenging, worthwhile vision is also characteristic of a good leader. The leader helps the follower transcend their own self-interest and participate in a vision for a greater good. Figure 1 summarizes these major characteristics of successful leaders.

More recent work on gender and cultural differences has shown that there are differences in behaviours and styles that need to be considered. Male leaders emphasize goal setting and women emphasize human interaction and facilitation in their leadership style (Gibson, 1995). Hofstede (1980) and others show leaders from different countries have different value orientations and different styles. Triandis (1993) concludes, however, that common leadership factors exist, but depending on the cultural value orientation shifts in emphasis will occur. Gibson (1995) suggests that overall, leadership behaviours and styles do not vary greatly across gender and cultures and differences are more a matter of degree rather than actual different models of leadership.

Emotional intelligence

A class of four-year-old children are busily studying and playing when the teacher interrupts the class and gives them each a marshmallow. The children are then told that the teacher has to go on an errand for 15 minutes or so and they can eat the marshmallow whenever they want but if they wait till the teacher returns they will be given two marshmallows.

Hidden video cameras record how some children respond to their first immediate impulse and eat the marshmallow, others who are tempted, but wait and then succumb to the desire to eat the marshmallow and finally, a third group who is able to delay the pull of the immediate temptation for the greater reward of two marshmallows 15 minutes later.

We might wonder, so what? What would marshmallows and four year olds tell us about life success and leadership?

By following the lives of these four year olds over the next 14 years some amazing results occurred. The children who were able to hold back from eating the marshmallows were found to have better mental health as young adults (less anxiety, stress and worry) and performed better in high school and university. Surprisingly the marshmallow test was a better predictor of success in high school and university than was IQ! The ability to manage immediate and strong emotions was a skill that had great value later in life. It appeared that these children have some other type of intelligence that was even more valuable than the traditional intellectual intelligence which we prize in our schools [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED].

Goleman (1996) has described a concept called "emotional intelligence" which he suggests is a better predictor of life success than the intellectual intelligence we measure as IQ. Goleman defines emotional intelligence as a person's ability to be aware of, manage and use emotions appropriately in dealing with people in various situations. He describes five main skills that consist of emotional intelligence:

1 Self-awareness of one's own emotions as they happen.

2 Managing feelings so they are appropriate.

3 Motivating oneself in the service of a goal.

4 Having empathy and understanding for emotion in others.

5 Being able to interrelate well and work with others.

A number of research studies have followed children, adolescents and adults who have higher emotional intelligence and found that they are more socially competent, personally effective, able to handle stress better, are more self-reliant and trustworthy and perform better academically. Over 120 different studies of more than 36,000 people found that the less prone to worry a person was the better a person does in university. Higher levels of hope and optimism not only predicted academic success but also predicted success rates of sales and likelihood to stay as an insurance salesman.

Another factor which Golemen says relates to success is "flow" - that psychological state where excellence is effortless, when a person experiences a blissful steady absorption in the moment. Emotions at this time are positive, energized, natural and aligned to the task at hand. Flow is often characterized as a state of self-forgetfulness. One study, which monitored the activity of students found that high achievers spent over 40 per cent of the time studying in the flow while low achievers spent only 16 per cent of the time in the flow.

So what are the implications of emotional intelligence for leadership? Recently six groups of managers and professionals (about 200 people in total) were asked to list who they considered leaders, internationally and in Australia and then to vote on who they considered the most successful leaders. People such as Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Gough Whitlam (a previous Prime Minister of Australia) and Janet Holmes A'Court (a successful Australian business woman) scored well as successful leaders across several groups. When asked what it is that led them to rate these leaders as successful leaders the following list emerged.

Successful leaders:

* have vision;

* inspire and motivate;

* communicate and clarify the vision;

* stay focused;

* take risks;

* persevere;

* have ability to overcome adversity and handle difficult situations;

* are concerned for people's welfare;

* are highly sensitive to social cues;

* are the right person, at the right time and know the right action.

When these groups were asked to rate these leaders in intellectual intelligence and emotional intelligence, these leaders were generally considered to be only moderate to high in intellectual intelligence but very high in emotional intelligence [ILLUSTRATION FOR FIGURE 2 OMITTED]. While Paul Keating (the last Australian Prime Minister) was recognized as a leader high in intellectual intelligence he was considered lower in emotional intelligence. A number of participants suggested that his poor emotional intelligence skills cost him re-election as Prime Minister.

The research on emotional intelligence combined with managers' and professionals' perceptions of leaders suggests that successful leaders show an ability to be aware and manage his/her own emotions while being responsive to other people's feelings. They have an ability not to react or get caught up in their own or other people's negative emotions such as anger, impatience, negative judgements and anxiety.

The successful leader, therefore, has an ability to be in the present and see the situation free from preconceived ideas. While the leader may have previous experience and personal views or values, they do not cloud his or her ability to discover what is the best action in the situation. In summary, good leaders seem to:

* See what the specific situation needs.

* Have a clear and powerful vision/purpose that guides him/her.

* Use knowledge (theirs or others) as it is needed to deal with the situation.

* Be sensitive to and able to respond appropriately and differently to their followers.

* Influence followers to work towards higher level values and goals.

* Have emotional intelligence - an ability to know and utilize appropriately their own feelings and those of others.

* Are in the "flow" - are at one, focused in the present moment and aware more fully of people around them than other people.

There is only one word in the dictionary that seems to summarize these characteristics - "wisdom". The word wisdom is derived from "wis" - which means "to make known, instruct or to make certain".

Wisdom is defined as "the capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct; soundness of judgement in choice of means and ends, sound sense in practical affairs, knowledge, especially of a high kind, wise teaching or action" (Little et al., 1973).

Wisdom and leadership

While wisdom is a characteristic that has been valued by human societies for thousands of years, there has not been much written about it in a formal sense in the leadership literature. Wisdom has seemed a bit too mysterious and slippery to focus on as a key element in management. Yet the development and transmission of wisdom has been considered vital to the wellbeing of humans and the continuance of western spiritual traditions for thousands of years. As one becomes familiar with the writings, stories and lessons of the great philosophies of mankind certain key themes, experiences and characteristics can be recognized. A number of these characteristics can be identified as highly relevant and useful to leaders, especially in our current organizational environment with its conflicting, competing and changing demands.

Know when to remain silent, and when to speak

A master gardener, famous for his skill in climbing and pruning the highest trees, examined his disciple by letting him climb a very high tree. Many people had come to watch. The master gardener stood quietly, carefully following every move but not interfering with one word. Having pruned the top, the disciple climbed down and was only about ten feet from the ground when the master suddenly yelled; "Take care, take care!"

When the disciple was safely down an old man asked the master gardener: "You did not let out one word when he was aloft in the most dangerous place. Why did you caution him when he was nearly down? Even if he had slipped then, he could not have greatly hurt himself."

"But isn't it obvious?" replied the master gardener. "Right up at the top he is conscious of the danger, and of himself takes care. But near the end when one begins to feel safe, this is when accidents occur."

What does this story have to say about leadership and what does the master gardener show us by his moment by moment wisdom? Certainly there are a few obvious aspects to the story. The master gardener put his disciple in a challenging situation, one the master gardener knew the disciple could handle f given the proper guidance.

The gardener/leader was closely watching the follower's progress and knew when to keep silent and when to speak. The master gardener also had emotional intelligence - he did not get worried, and managed not only the anxiety of the disciple but even the crowd. The master gardener knew the tendencies of the follower's mind at every moment so that he could caution at the time when he knew the disciple might think the job over and might "slack off"- "Take care, take care!" While it sounds simple in this story, it is an extraordinary ability of a leader to know the mind of his/her followers and to act precisely and wisely at the time - for the good of both the task and the follower.

There is another element here which is not readily apparent and that is the trust of the disciple. This disciple was willing to put his/her wellbeing in the hands of the master and to follow instructions without question. The follower was able to recognize the superior wisdom of the leader and was willing to place himself/herself under the leader's guidance to develop their own life and occupational skills. The master gardener was teaching a lot more than how to prune tall trees!

This story comes from the Zen Buddhist tradition and is used to help monks remain alert during all instances in their training, to encourage the mind to be awake and fully in the present. Zen is the Japanese word for meditation or contemplation. Zen aims to help people free their minds from constructed, acquired concepts and mental habits that limit and distort the view we have of reality. It challenges the idea that we are all separate people - separate selves operating in our individually constructed world views. It aims to develop a life wisdom - a seeing into the direct nature of reality, not one constructed through individual opinions and acquired ideas. It boldly suggests that only when we are free from intellectual constraints and egotistical concerns can we then experience the world clearly and fully participate in life.

This leadership wisdom is not a definable concept but is directly observable, practical and effective in the moment. The master gardener would probably not have heard of situational/transactional or transformational leadership nor had attended any management training but was able to be an effective leader.

Be here now

Another story from the teaching of Zen shows another one of the key essential skills that are necessary for the development of a leader - the ability to be in the present - to see what is happening without preconceived ideas or distractions. This story involves a master's conversation with a monk:

Do you ever make an effort to get disciplined in the truth?

Yes, I do.

How do you exercise yourself?

When I am hungry, I eat; when I am tired, I sleep.

This is what everybody does; can they be said to be exercising themselves in the same way as you do?


Why not?

Because when they eat, they do not eat, but are thinking of various other things, thereby allowing themselves to be disturbed: when they sleep they do not sleep, but dream of a thousand and one things; this is why they are not like myself (Schloegl, 1975, p. 52).

This story simply and clearly emphasizes much of what the average person of today's world is missing. Almost everyone is so involved with his/her own thoughts that they don't experience what is actually going on around them. The average person has about 100 thoughts per minute which means about 6,000 thoughts per hour. Over the course of a day, this would be about 100,000 thoughts!

Much of this thinking process involves "self-talk" - a voice in the head commenting, judging, justifying, or planning on some past or future event or action. Often the same comment is said over again, involves negative comments about a situation not being the way "I" want it to be or the way it should have been. While all of this is going on a person only partially sees what is actually in front of him or her.

How many times have we travelled to work and not recalled anything that was on the route - because we were totally absorbed in thought? The car was on automatic pilot and yet we had eyes open, but nobody was home! An essential characteristic for a leader would be to be in the present - for him or her to be able to focus on the current situation without inner self-talk, preconceived ideas and distractions that might interfere with him or her listening and seeing accurately what the situation is. Yet, how much emphasis, training and reinforcement is given to managers to clear their minds from preoccupations, worries and mental self-talk?

The empty cup - knowing when we do not know

The Oracle at Delphi prophesied that Socrates was the wisest person in Athens. When Socrates heard of this he set out to prove the Oracle wrong because he felt he wasn't the wisest. He spent some time wandering around Athens talking to politicians, poets, artists and philosophers who others had held up to be very wise people. As Socrates questioned them he began to see that they weren't wise because they thought they knew things that they didn't actually know. They said many things and were quite skilled in their own occupations but thought they knew things about the nature of life and the universe which they obviously did not know. Socrates's conclusion was that the Oracle may be right, that he was the wisest person in Athens, only because he knew that he knew nothing - whereas others thought they knew something and did not!

In the world of management and leadership education, we seem to have the view that the more a person learns, the more he or she knows and the better they will be as a leader. We often look at the letters behind the name (BS, MBA, etc.) and assume that person is more qualified to be a leader. Socrates, one of the major philosophers of western culture shows that the wisest people are those that know when they do not know. Often we hear that those that have wisdom are often very simple and childlike. They see things as for the first time and are open to new experiences and willing to learn. They may have years of experience but they are able to teach simply and appreciate the profoundness of everyday events.

In a similar way Eastern philosophy emphasizes the need to empty the mind of preconceived ideas, theories, and acquired attitudes and views. These filters and distortions of the mind inhibit one from truly listening and seeing what is directly in front of us. This is shown clearly in the following story:

A university professor went to see a Zen master eager to learn about the nature of Zen and its profound wisdom and to test whether it was comparable to the other great philosophies he was an expert in. When the professor arrived, the Zen master asked him if he would like a cup of tea. As the Zen master began pouring tea, the professor started asking a number of questions about the value and meaning of Zen. The Zen master kept pouring the tea without answering the questions. The professor impatiently restated his questions and asked for an answer.

The Zen master kept pouring the tea without saying anything. The professor began to get annoyed and demanded that the Zen master answer his questions.

By now the hot tea was running over the cup and on to the professor's hand. "What are you doing? You stupid fool?" said the professor. "How can you be an expert in philosophy when you can't even pour a cup of tea?" "That cup is just like you, sir. How can I tell you about the nature of Zen when your mind, like that cup, is so full?" said the Zen master. (Peter Pauper Press, Zen Buddhism, 1959, p. 30).

The illusion of a separate "me"

Central to all philosophies are the questions of "Who am I?", "How did this universe come into being?" and "What is my relationship to it?" The answers or beliefs we have about these questions affect the way we structure and control work, our views of ownership and profit, our leadership style and the way we deal with other people in the workplace. Watts (1989), a philosopher, describes the major problem with modern society as operating from a false premiss of who we are:

Yet the problem is more basic. The root of the matter is the way in which we feel and conceive ourselves as human beings, our sensation of being alive, of individual existence and identity. We suffer from a hallucination, from a false and distorted sensation of our own existence as living organisms. Most of us have the sensation that "I myself" is a separate center of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body - a center which "confronts" an "external" world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange (p. 8).

We have developed a view that we are an ego, a psychological identity that exists separate from the universe in which it lives. Watts describes two factors which are ignored and result in our perpetuation of this misconceived idea of our existence. The first is not realizing that so-called opposites, such as light and darkness, sound and silence, solid and space, on and off, inside and outside, appearing and disappearing, management and unions and cause and effect, are poles or aspects of the same thing. The second is that we are so absorbed in narrowed, disjointed perception we really feel that this world is indeed an assemblage of separate things that have somehow come together and that we each are only one of the many things in the universe that are born and die alone.

Most Westerners locate the ego in the head, from which the rest of us dangles. The ego for us is somewhere behind the eyes and between the ears. "It is, then, as if the human race had hypnotised or talked itself into the hoax of egocentricity" (p. 57). This leads to the dilemma, according to Watts, that on one hand we have the sacred individual - the unique personal ego, separate from both nature and God - defined by a society which commands the individual to be free and not to conform. On the other hand, the person is a mere hired hand (the employee, part-time or contract worker) who is just a cog in the industrial machine who can be discarded, retrenched, downsized if technology can do his/her job better.

According to Watts, the perpetuation of this duality, this imposition of the ego over the world results in most of our products being made by people who do not enjoy making them, whether as owners or workers. The major real aim in the enterprise is not a quality product or service but money and a return to the shareholder, so our quality is inferior no matter how many systems we put in place.

The importance of this is for leaders to see and experience the third possibility- that the individual is neither an isolated person nor an expendable, humanoid unit of production. A person may be seen, instead, as one particular focal point at which the whole universe expresses itself - whatever one may choose to call IT; Existence, Being, God or the Ultimate Ground of Being. This view dissolves the paradox of individuality vs collectivity, capitalism vs communism, individual vs organization, or owner/manager vs worker. Individuality does not become separation but a unique expression of the whole - part of the universe, a unity of diversity:

For "you" is the universe looking at itself from billions of points of view, points that come and go so that the vision is forever new (p. 130).

Once this illusion of ego is seen through, life becomes a play, a play that should be carried out exquisitely and with quality. The object of the play is for the universe to experience and know itself. Work becomes more than a means to obtain personal wealth or objects of wealth or to escape from the suffering of poverty.

Two quotes from the economist, philosopher Schumacher (1974) summarize the value of work from this perspective:

Everywhere people ask: "What can I actually do?" The answer is as simple as it is disconcerting; we can, each of us, work to put our own house in order. The guidance we need for this work cannot be found in science or technology, the value of which utterly depends on the ends they serve; but can still be found in the traditional wisdom of mankind (p. 45).

The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold; to give man a chance to utilize and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his egocentredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. (p. 45).

Eastern and western philosophers go to great lengths to point out that this perspective needs to go beyond mere intellectual understanding to actual experience or "enlightenment" - knowing and being who you are. Therefore considerable emphasis is placed on the actual practice of non-egotistical actions such as being in the present fully free from attachments to past ideas or views of one's self.

Ego climbing and quality

To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that's out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He's likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he's tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what's ahead even when he knows what's ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He's here but he's not here. He rejects the here, is unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then it will be "here". What he's looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn't want that because it is all around him. Every step's an effort both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant. (Pirsig, 1981, pp. 189-90).

The ultimate price we pay for ego-climbing, living in a way that is out of touch with our environment, one another and the present moment, is a lack of quality in the products and services we provide and our experiences of those products and services. The major challenge for leadership is to help restore this quality into our lives and work by helping workers re-establish a connection with their own internal wisdom. In order to help others, leaders must find this within themselves. The above quote shows the ultimate dissatisfaction that all humans must feel when we live our life for some future event. The most unfortunate part is that just when we are about to reach this imaginary goal, we set up a new one in our mind and begin to focus on that so we are continually struggling and working towards some imaginary future that we can never actually experience or enjoy.

The truly visionary mind is the truly egoless mind

A great deal has been written about how important it is to have a clear vision for organizational, team and personal goals. A story of Zen, told by the late Japanese scholar, Suzuki, the major interpreter of Zen for the West helps shows the direct relationship between a truly creative mind and the truly egoless mind - and how powerful vision arises from this:

The abbot of a certain Zen monastery wished to have the ceiling of the Dharma (meditation) Hall decorated with a dragon. A noted painter was asked to do the work, he accepted, but complained that he had never seen a living dragon, if such a reality existed. The abbot said, "Don't mind your not having seen the creature. You become one with the dragon, be transformed into a living dragon and paint it. Don't try to follow the conventional pattern." The artist asked, "How can I become a dragon?" The abbot replied, "You retire to your private room and concentrate your mind on it; the time will come when you feel that you must paint one. That is the moment when you have become the dragon, and the dragon urges you to give it form." The artist followed the abbot's advice, and after several months he became confident of himself because of seeing the dragon out of his whole mind and then he painted it in two weeks. The result is that the dragon is now on the ceiling to the Dharma Hall at the Myoshinji, Kyoto in Japan (Peter Pauper Press, Zen Buddhism, 1959).

The essence of this story is captured in the phrase, "That is the moment when you have become the dragon, and the dragon urges you to give it form". It is no longer his ego that is creating the dragon but the dragon is creating itself through the person. It is that moment when the person becomes both the problem and the answer. The mind gives up any concept of itself and becomes that which it sees. Obtaining an open, clear mind so that the mind can experience the question, questioner and solution or more accurately, questioner-solution-question, as one, is a key experience of wisdom.

This story provides a different view of how successful visions arise. It suggests that when the vision, the leader, and the followers become one with the vision it comes into being through them, not by them. In the world of business it means that visions arise out of needs. The painter did not ask to paint the dragon, the abbot asked the painter to fill the need - the barren wall of the meditation hall. Leaders should seek to find the true needs in society and let the vision arise from that - not have a vision and then convince the world to buy it!

Second, we need to "sit with", become, and devote ourselves to the vision - not just put it on the wall and use it to guide our action. This story suggests that a true vision comes through who we are.

Integrating leadership wisdom and leadership development

Figure 3 integrates what has been discussed to this point. It shows that leadership theory and concepts help us to recognize and conceptualize those factors which result in leadership wisdom.

The central and practical characteristics of this wisdom could be summarized as:

* Know when to remain silent, and when to speak. Look and listen fully and respond in the moment directly and clearly.

* Be here now. Be in the present, let the self-talk go and focus on what is occurring in the moment.

* Empty the cup - know when you do not know. Do not get attached to ideas, preconceived opinions. Use ideas and concepts, do not let them use you, admit when you do not know.

* Drop the illusion of the separate me. When your ego gets in the way let it go. Find the unifying point of the person, the team and the situation.

* Quality moment by moment. Find quality in the moment, do not get caught up in the imagined goal of some imagined future. Recognize there is no other time than now, no other place than here! Here and now is the only place quality can be experienced.

* True vision arises from need, it occurs from being. A worthwhile effort fills a genuine need. A vision occurs when we see what is needed and give ourselves to serving that need. When our ego gets out of the way, the vision occurs through us.

These "truths" are both different and the same. They point to the same experience and skills in leadership and management. From an external perspective these attributes may appear to be acquired traits, skills and experience that result in leaders being more effective. But as the stories and quotes which have been discussed show leadership wisdom is more a process of dropping preconceived ideas, egotistical attachments, focusing on and experiencing the present and responding to what is needed. A number of recent writers have begun to describe this as leaders operating from a higher state of consciousness. Harung et al. (1995) describe four levels of consciousness and suggest high performing leaders have more frequent experiences of unity and oneness with their environment and transcend the everyday busy-ness to experience a sense of tranquillity and being. They describe a study of 22 world-class leaders who report experiencing this higher level of consciousness ten times more frequently than average populations. They describe a model for leadership based on ancient Vedic philosophy which has similarities to the model presented in this paper.

Figure 3 also suggests that the development of leadership may be in a different direction than we have previously considered. Development of leadership may involve learning how to shed mental habits, to drop egotistic concerns and worries, and to reflect on one's actions, intentions and goals both as a person and as a leader of organizations. Individual, team and organizational development would be the central theme of the educational experiences. In some ways this is similar to the "learning organization" theme of Senge and others (Senge, 1990) but has an even deeper experience at its base as to the nature of human beings and what our work is.

At the individual level, leadership development would involve the teaching of mental clearing/meditation practices so that the person learned to experience clarity and peace of mind. Cranson et al. (1991) showed that students introduced to meditation experienced higher states of consciousness over time as well as higher IQ and improved scores on reaction time tests compared to control groups. In another study, meditating students' level of self-development as measured by Loevinger's model of self-development increased over a ten-year period compared to control groups (Alexander et al., 1994). There is also evidence that meditation leads to higher levels of serotonin. Gelderloos et al. (1988), showed that higher levels of serotonin correlate with high scores on leadership skills and work performance tests.

Examination and practice of the wisdom and techniques of philosophical traditions would be valuable in developing an ability to maintain a state of open awareness, and a stillness and clarity of mind. Meditation is one of the eastern techniques that has helped many people for thousands of years. Management of stress and understanding of one's own personality would also be important. Leadership development should include health reviews so that the physical wellbeing of the individual is also considered. Self-reflection and examination of one's actions and ideas through the use of journals would be integral to leadership development. Use of 360-degree feedback would be valuable in helping the individual see their leadership skills and what is being recognized by others as effective or in need of improvement.

At the team level, a common "worthwhile" goal to unite and challenge the team is integral to achieving good teamwork. Individuals knowing what role they are to play and what they should do specifically to help the team perform successfully is also part of this experience of "oneness".

Finally, at the organizational level, the overall purpose and vision needs to be examined as well as the basis of ownership and use of profit. Is the vision contributing to greater good, world unity and harmony or is the agenda just shareholder profit and return on the money invested? Organizations would consider diversity and equality of humans as natural to their business if based on the philosophy described in this paper.

The individual, team and organization would be experienced as one whole that has parts working together, different but not separate - like fingers of a hand. The ideas and activities suggested here are already used in many organizations. Unfortunately they are often seen as nice human resource practices that are cut when the firm's financial success is threatened. In addition, they are not often based on a solid foundation of deep human wisdom that unites and experiences itself as part of a living whole. The stories, quotes and ideas covered earlier in this paper suggest that we currently operate our view of ourselves, our relationships and our organizations under a gigantic illusion. If this is so, the recognition of this illusion will lead to a whole new way of operating organizations and how we work together.

On the trail

While these stories can at first sound abstract and unrelated to the everyday modern world, they are practical and applicable in everyday situations. I will finish on an actual event that occurred during the days when I was writing this paper. The situation described is simple and every-dayish and yet shows that leadership does occur moment by moment.

I went for a two day bush walk with my 19 year old son, his friend, Zac and my 10-year-old son. After walking 17km and camping by a river on the first day, on the second we got started a little late for our return. Zac had to be at work in the city by 5.00 p.m. and we knew we had about a 5hr walk and 2hr drive ahead of us. While it looked like we could make it back in time we were uncertain.

Zac led the group on to the bush track and for the first 3km we were moving at a hectic pace. I was the last person in the line and I felt I was almost running to keep up. At times some of us were stumbling while trying to keep up and we certainly did not have time to enjoy the beautiful morning. I could feel my "self-talk" was concerned about the pace. I was worried that someone would trip and get hurt or that we might not see a snake on the path. I felt myself saying; "I am not enjoying this" and "Maybe I should say something to Zac, that his rushing is not the best way to do this walk." I was aware of my doubts and kept telling myself to say something "at the right spot" on the trail.

As I became aware of my internal self-talk I also realized I was not saying anything because I didn't want to confront Zac's concern about getting back to the city on time. I was willing to risk one of us getting hurt and willing to miss enjoying a magnificent day just because I was afraid to say what I knew was true. Once I was aware of my thoughts and feelings and what they were based on, I called out to Zac and asked him to stop. When I caught up with everyone, I asked them how they were feeling about the pace. Zac said he was concerned about getting back to his job and he knew he was walking at an accelerated pace. I explained that I felt we were missing the beautiful day, and the enjoyment of the walk and also felt we were putting ourselves in danger by walking so quickly. We also discussed how the rapid pace had caused our thoughts to become involved with a lot of other things and we were not really present.

Zac was thinking about how much time he would need to get ready for his work, my son was thinking about seeing his girlfriend in Sydney next week and I was thinking about whether I should say something about our rapid pace. So nobody was actually experiencing the walk!

We then agreed to spend about two minutes with our eyes closed, listening to the sounds around us, being aware of the sense of air and sunlight on our bodies and allowing the mental activity to die down. When we started walking again there was a sense of quiet attention and we seemed to be much more together as a group. The rest of the morning walk turned out to be much more enjoyable and we made it back well ahead of the required time. As we got near to our return point, Zac came over to me and said that he saw that his rushing was symptomatic of a lot of things he does in life. He focuses on one goal to the exclusion of everything else which diminishes his enjoyment as well as his effectiveness. He seemed quite pleased that we had slowed down and let go of the rushing; as a result he gave attention to the walk since that was why he had come on the two-day trek anyway.

The important thing that I learned was that my leadership was not to do with getting anyone to do anything - like getting Zac to slow down. It was about me expressing my concern - to point out what I knew was true - that rushing, with all the mental chatter going on, was not good, and that being in the present was something I needed to do. By expressing that, I had done my job - I pointed out what I needed - whether Zac or my son got mad at me for slowing things down, or whether they thought I was a "wise" adult/father did not matter. Leadership for me was seeing what was needed in the moment and letting go of the "stuff" that blocked or inhibited the things that needed to happen.

While this example may be of a simple instant during bushwalking, there are thousands of these "moments of truth" every day for leaders and employees in organizations all over the world. It is this moment by moment leadership that makes the difference. Leadership is quite mysterious since I did not really know whether we would make it back in time or not. It just took confidence that if I did what I knew was true, things would turn out all right.


Alexander, C., Heaton, D. and Chandler, H. (1994), "Advanced human development in the Vedic psychology of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: theory and research", in Miller, M. and Cook-Greuter, S. (Eds), Transcendence and Mature Thought in Adulthood, Rowman and Littlefield, Langham, MD, pp.39-70.

Cranson, R.W., Orme-Johnson, D., Dillbeck, M., Jones, C., Alexander, C. and Gackenback, J. (1991), "Transcendental meditation and improved performance on intelligence-related measures: a longitudinal study", Journal of Personality and Individual Differences, Vol. 12, pp. 1105-16.

Gelderloos, P., Walton, K., Goddard, P., Gaudet, D. and Pugh, N. (1988), "Whole blood serotonin and 5-hydroxy-indoleacetic acid, biochemical markers of leadership ability", Proceedings of the Iowa Academy of Science, Vol. 95, p. A57.

Gibson, C. (1995), "An understanding of gender differences in leadership across four countries", Journal of International Business Studies, Second Quarter, pp. 225-79.

Goleman, D. (1996), Emotional Intelligence, Bloomsbury, London.

Harung, H., Heaton, D. and Alexander, C. (1995), "A unified theory of leadership: experiences of higher states of consciousness in world class leaders", Leadership & Organisational Development, Vol. 16 No. 7, pp. 44-59.

Hofstede, G. (1980), Culture's Consequences: International Differences in Work-related Values, Sage, Beverly Hills, CA.

Hughes, R., Ginnett and Curphy, G. (1994), Leadership, Enhancing the Lessons of Experience, 2nd ed., Irwin, Homewood, IL.

Kilpatrick, S. A. and Locke, E. A. (1991), "Leadership: do traits matter?", Academy of Management Executive, May, pp. 48-60.

Kouzes, O. and Posner, B. (1993), Credibility, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

Little, W., Fowler, H. and Coulson, J. (1973), Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Peter Pauper Press, Zen Buddhism, (1959), An Introduction to Zen with Stories, Parables and Koan Riddles told by the Zen Masters, Mount Vernon, New York, NY.

Pirsig, R. (1981) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Corgi Books, USA.

Robbins, T., Waters-Marsh, R., Cacioppe, R. and Millet, B. (1994), Organisational Behaviour, Australian & New Zealand, Prentice-Hall, Australia.

Schloegl, I. (1975), The Wisdom of the Zen Masters, Sheldon Press, London.

Schumacher, F. (1974), Small Is Beautiful, a Study of Economics as if People Mattered, Abacus, London.

Senge, P.M. (1990), The Fifth Discipline, Random House, Australia.

Stogdill, M. (1974), Handbook of Leadership: A Survey of Theory and Research, Free Press, New York, NY.

Triandis, H. (1993), "Cross-cultural industrial and organisational pyschology", in Triandis, Dunnette and Hugh (Eds), Handbook of Industrial and Organisation Psychology, Vol. 4, Consulting Psychologist Press, New York, NY.

Watts, A. (1989), The Book on the Taboo against Knowing Who You Are, Vintage Books, New York, NY.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Emerald Group Publishing, Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Cacioppe, Ron
Publication:Leadership & Organization Development Journal
Date:Aug 1, 1997
Previous Article:Managing Change: Reflections on Equality and Management Learning.
Next Article:Critical success factors in developing ProMES: will the end result be an "accepted control loop"?

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |