Leadership networking and active transitions in the workplace: freedoms, energy, and transformative relationships.
The need for individuals who can communicate and exercise effective and inspired leadership has been a fundamental goal across the ages. This paper seeks to provide contextual reference by relating streams of learning activity and by highlighting specific businesses and organizations, including Fannie Mae, NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center, the Commission on the Future of Agriculture (COFA), the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and some early work with members of the Social Development Group at The World Bank. These examples are intended to illuminate what this author terms a network transformative leader-manager model.
This leader-manager model is emerging from theory into the learning and action stages. It is proactive and restorative for current leader-managers who want to establish new practices and traditions. Among the critical change factors considered by the paper in addition to the impact of globalization are the collective influence of old national and organization-centered cultures, a quest for building quality interpersonal relationships, achieving sustainable reflective learning activity, capturing and using human energy, and shifting learning and practice from transactional to value-added transformative exchange. Lastly, the push to build leader-manager focused human capital networks through transformative practice is critical for achieving business, organizational, and personal goals.
It is said that "being" is the most universal and the emptiest concept: As such it resists every attempt at definition. Nor does this most universal and thus indefinable concept need any definition.
Being and Time
I just look out the window and see what's visible but not yet seen.
Peter F. Drucker
An Intellectual Journey
The igniting and harnessing of leader-manager knowledge, capability, and relationship skill potential is necessary to advance leader-manager practice across a range of systems. The reason is that leader-manager transformative energy can be applied effectively during times of continuous change and to successfully confront uncertainty and other situations and opportunities. Concurrently, the daily pursuits of people, business, governments and civic life locally, nationally, and internationally, are increasingly indistinguishable given the factors and influence of globalization. As such, the advent of new technology, the recasting of old technology, and the shifting of work and skills suggest a need for thinking about establishing and renewing sustainable relationships. It is the view of this author that networked leader-managers who can create and nurture authentic relationships will be engaged in energy building, proactively navigating change, and will be more able to engage in focused, practical, and sustainable activity for their businesses, organizations, and communities.
More than 50 years ago, the noted political scientist Harold D. Lasswell (The Political Writings of Harold D. Lasswell, 1951) provided a foundation for the fundamental assertion and assumptions in this paper when he described the potential character of a democratic community that also needed to recognize emerging national cultures and other contextual realities. Lasswell posed the question of who gets what (values), when, where, and how, and he wrote "we pride ourselves upon what we put into practice about human relations." He went on to suggest that meaningful human relations are "about the need for inspiration across civilizations and cultures with a goal toward [developing] human potential and the pursuit of freedom [across and within cultures]."
A Premise for Future Leader-Managers
Clearly, the joining of human potential and choices and freedoms is critical for leader-managers. Specifically, undeveloped human potential is a denial of potential human capital as well as a drag on energy optimization for cultures and organizations thinking about investing in managerial skills development for a group of people. Investment will be needed to support potential leader-managers and to gradually bring a given social or cultural system to a desired level of proficiency through practice and application.
I think I am in agreement with my philosopher colleague Frithjof Bergmann (On Being Free, 1996), with whom I have collaborated to engage young people and adults on a range of issues related to learning potential and acquiring youth leadership skills in a context of freedom and work. Specifically, Bergmann and I shared work and a passion for several years during the late 1980s and early 1990s as we sought ways to partner with youths to find useful and practical learning options as they considered their choices. In pursuing this work, Bergmann, with my collaboration and the involvement of others, provided a working analysis and argument about the ideas of youths who wanted to really learn something of value in school and apply it to their lives in meaningful ways. Bergmann and I would often talk about the relationships involving their choices and achieving freedom. He said that "the actual relationship between choice and freedom, as we perceive it, can be organized around two contentions. The first of these maintains that the presence of a choice does not guarantee the possibility of freedom--it is not a condition that suffices. This is true even for the strongest sense of choice, where I in fact do go through a process of deliberation, reach a conclusion, and acting on it I am able to realize A instead of B."
By taking this premise into the present, I think about the plan and intent of the National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) Accelerated Leadership Program (ALP) that is now under way at the Goddard Space Flight Center. It is to serve as an anchor and learning and practice structure from which selected potential leader-managers will emerge. Over the past 14 months, I have participated in the birth and maturation of the NASA/Goddard ALP idea into an actual leader-manager model for personal growth and learning opportunity that is relationship and network focused. In my view, the NASA/ Goddard ALP is already moving toward an expressed goal to influence the whole NASA/ Goddard organization by preparing leader-managers who are technically proficient in science and engineering. This year as the two-year leadership program goes forward I will be keenly observing the range, dexterity, individuality, and fullness of a group of 20 participants in a cohort of experienced adult learners who want to move up in responsibility in a science and engineering hierarchy. The specific movement toward leading and managing is from point A to point B through cohesive applied learning. In such a purposeful and guided navigation, the NASA/Goddard ALP learners are actively engaged in building a network of emerging leader-managers who will be constructing a web of new relationships, practices, and skills through choice and freedom and the will to succeed in the organization. It will be important to recognize, reflect, and comment on the influences that will enable individual and collective personal movement from point A to point B, while also seeing where B is.
Before concluding this part of the paper, I also want to share my interpretation of the position taken by the economist Amartya Sen (Development as Freedom, 1999) who holds that "the exercise of freedom is mediated by values, but the values in turn are influenced by public discussions and social interactions, which are themselves influenced by participatory freedoms." Sen goes on to say that "each of these connections deserves careful scrutiny and the fact that the freedom of economic transactions tends to be typically a great engine of economic growth has been widely acknowledged, even though forceful detractors remain."
Concurrently, I want to mention the international management thinker Geert Hofstede (Cultures and Organizations, 1997), whose groundbreaking research led to a universal conclusion that culture matters for people in organizations, communities, and nations. Hofstede stated that, "the word in which we live is full of different minds but common problems that often result in confrontations between people, groups, and nations who, think, feel, and act differently. At the same time these people, groups, and nations are exposed to common problems that demand cooperation or their solution." Inexorably intertwined within the complexity of the Hofstede issues concerned with culturally based leader behaviors that are not clear-out is the amorphous concept, of what being a leader is and is not, depending on the cultural tradition. I have observed these conditions of different minds and common problems to some degree at the local level within the organizations highlighted in this paper.
As further evidence I offer the ongoing and informative work of Robert J. House and many co-investigators who are engaged in the Project GLOBE (Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 29, 2001) research initiative that is providing new insights on the roles and reach of cultures in 61 countries. This groundbreaking work is providing many insights, articulating culturally contingent influencers in the realms of leadership and management, and shedding light on the fact that "the cultures of the world are getting more and more in contact" in this rapidly expanding era of globalization. This contact is made possible by air travel and instant communication. Moreover, the research from House and his colleagues is providing new evidence that the interrelationships between freedom and globalization while also creating many opportunities for enterprise are equally potent in helping to surface longstanding and new challenges. This cumulative ball of confusion is broad, swirling, and complex. In Project GLOBE, the emerging trends and themes revolve around nine critical cultural dimensions: performance orientation, future orientation, assertiveness, uncertainty avoidance, power distance, collectivism, family collectivism, gender differentiation, and humane differentiation. As Project GLOBE accumulates management and cross-cultural learning, I suggest that leader differences and leader assumptions between cultures will influence the ability to promote sustainable leader-manager behaviors. In this vein, the resulting leader-manager capacity is formed. There is then increased potential to move toward strengthened problem-solving and solutions that are mutual for national, racial, gender and cultural groups affected by common systems. Weakened potential must also be factored into the range of scenarios that can emerge in future years. I suggest that this kind of problem-solving activity is not the sole domain of leader-managers, indeed, there is wide dispersal within the wider population. Taylor Cox, Jr. and others have provided evidence to support this view.
On another level, expanding globalization is partially due to the rapid and widening pace of technology and labor transfers as described by a number of scholars, including the economist Paul Krugman (The Return of Depression Economics, 1999). Krugman posits that globalization is the moving of business practices from developed nations such as the U.S., Japan, and Germany to less developed nations such as India, Brazil, and Kenya, Moreover, the rapid emergence of China will bring about a reordering of economic power, people development, work systems, and broad systemic change with extensive global ramifications for many years to come. China's growth and expansion is taking place in a rapidly changing global environment that can alter a present reality. Clearly, the rapid ascent of Asia in the global economy is currently being modulated by the SARS health crisis and the interconnection of economies.
So, as globalization advances it is becoming apparent that new leader-manager networks will be needed to help shape business acumen and cross-cultural bridging. There is also a need to bridge knowledge transfers to lessen potential tensions spurred by the Internet and the first dot-com business cycle. A persistent and major challenge of the present is enabling information to be gathered anywhere in the world and then sent freely across borders without first resolving how such activity should be shared under cross-border conditions. Again, the suggestion being made here is that there is ample opportunity for national and group conflicts to arise around knowledge, communication, and cross-cultural drivers, and for those conflicts to exacerbated when national leadership and managers are ineffective and dialogue is not a credible nor viable mediating option.
Along this vein, Harvard's Samuel Huntington (A Clash of Cultures, 1996) provides several critical observations and challenges for leaders, leader-managers. For Huntington "culture is both a divisive and a unifying force." He suggests that, "people separated by ideology but united by culture come together as the two Germanys did and as the two Koreas and the several Chinas are beginning to." Huntington goes on to say that "the paradigms for practicing local and international relations need to be adapted, changed and introduced."
The assertions by Huntington are macro in scale and clearly local, regional, and global in perspective. However, the need for paradigm shifts involving international relations is not the sole province of leader-managers in business, or nongovernment or government organizations. Huntington suggests that new models for leader engagement and future cooperation between and among cultures should lead to: 1) generalizations about reality; 2) understanding of causal relationships; and 3) anticipating and predicting future developments. They should have distinguishing features and offer paths that can be taken to achieve mutual goals for all involved. Metaphorically and practically, this is both inward pushing out like the air in a balloon and also the reverse of the outward pushing in on a balloon by an environment that is cold at times, hot at times, and various mixtures at other times
I liken this metaphor from Huntington to a series of dialogues and a conversation with key leaders and practitioners at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation a year ago for which the focus was to engage disparate groups who have common interests as well as common problems. The challenge then and now for a body of emerging work and practice is to bring this difference of values, traditions, and systems together in ways that will not lead to the bursting of organization and culture balloons and increased conflicts. In my view, this range of potential interpersonal scenarios both for Kellogg and Huntington is inherently fragile when there is a need to bring about stabilizing activities that over time can become transformative through specific actions
On another level, I have decided at this point to bring the global to a local and regional focus, because of the interplay between the global being local and local being global. Much of the current literature on leadership and management suggests that leader-managers (or leaders and managers) and indeed all members of an organization or community need to develop a global perspective. Again, the transformative acts that can stem from the creation of new opportunities are, I think, transferred through leader-manager learning and practice. They result in deepened relationships that can accomplish desired goals. In my work with senior and mid-level leader-managers at Fannie Mae, the leadership and management question is clear as is the intent of developing and tapping into leadership as a sustaining fuel for mining across the business. The mission of Fannie Mae is to promote home ownership for all Americans, and in doing so to support healthy communities. This mission is led by Franklin Raines and a team that recognizes that everybody in the organization has to become a part of the journey toward "The American Dream." I have observed that leader-manager behaviors are being shaped, distilled, and connected for future maximum intervention, benefit, and effectiveness (both within the organization and for the individual). In brief, the Fannie Mae vision is in a flux that becomes clear, and then less clear, and then refocused and recalibrated to another level of clarity within the system.
Lastly for this section, I present a brief composite of some of the long-view thinking about person-to-person relationships provided by the sociologist Richard Sennett (Respect in a World of Inequality, 2003). Sennett examines the nature of work as it involves people at different levels in modern society. Specifically, Sennett has written that "modern society lacks positive expressions of respect and recognition for others. To be sure, society has a master idea: It is that by treating one another as equals we affirm mutual respect. However, can we only respect people who are equal in strength to ourselves? Some inequalities are arbitrary but others are intractable, such as difference of talent. People in modern society generally fail to convey mutual regard and recognition across these boundaries." My response is that one person communicating with another can see the deficit of exchange and opportunity because of boundaries. Moreover, it is critical to recognize this lack and to consider the risk in not acknowledging and respecting another person or group when possible despite inequalities. The risk in not acknowledging and respecting another person is twofold: First, there is lost opportunity to begin a relationship that may lead to the sharing of ideas, practices, and better outcomes for networked leader-managers. The second risk is to weaken opportunities for building a supportive network for the future.
I suggest that giving and receiving respect is a fundamental element between equals and nonequals (usually denoted by rank) for building working relationships where leader-managers have influence in the workplace. Accordingly, I think there is potential for introducing new leadership, management, and team-based skill sets in this area of an organization as a shared responsibility in a system that is actively working toward achieving effective practices and ways to elevate the involvement of the widest number of people. Again, I have observed some of these leader-manager behaviors at Fannie Mae frequently and exponentially as a prelude to greater internal and external contributions to that business.
I have observed similar scenarios in government and community efforts and enterprise. For example, the ongoing development of collaborative-minded and globally-oriented leader-managers has been useful in a systems initiative being mounted by the State of North Dakota through a organization known as the Commission on the Future of Agriculture (COFA). From 1999 to the end of 2001, the principal facilitator for this large-scale effort was William "Bill" Patrie, who brought together more than 150 leader-managers from multiple organizations in learning and practice clusters to formulate a vision and a vision statement for COFA and its primary product, the Dakota Growers brand of wheat. Among the priorities was the need of this learning community to identify pathways for building relationships for partnerships within and across the cultures represented in COFA. The building of a shared vision involving people who know each other from previous relations and ventures will generally reveal the fullness of that interconnectedness if the previous effort or relationship succeeded or failed. In short, the quality of previous interactions will affect succeeding efforts and the capacity for building a common vision.
Extending Leader-Manager Networks into the Future
Margaret Wheatley (When Change Is Out of Control, 2002), in discussing uncertain times, writes, "interconnected systems are always sensitive. Activities occurring in one part of the system always affect many other parts of the system. The nature of the global business environment guarantees that no matter how hard we work to create a stable and healthy organization, our organization will continue to experience dramatic changes far beyond our control." She implies that change is constant. By extending this paradox beyond business, I think the principle holds true for a community, a community of learners, or a team. A simple explanation of why managing personal and dynamic change is possible only under ideal conditions will not suffice. Continuous learning is needed because what worked to solve a problem at one time will not work every time. As evidence, I recall a presentation by Andy Grove in San Diego several years ago when he said that Intel's advantage regarding the speed and power of its Pentium Processor chips was being threatened. I refer to this as being out front to maximize intellectual power and human capacity to stay on a heightened pace of breakthrough and innovation. I have also had the opportunity to ask former GE Chairman Jack Welch what he meant by "winning through people." I took away from his response that winning through people requires recognition, honesty, and integrity that will usually surface when a relationship is established. The question of winning together through people is important because it is commonly accepted that the only asset an organization really has is its people. Does this mean that when a organization loses it is because the people are not the right fit, or do the people lose because the organization does not provide a good fit? Or is it a question of the wrong direction, or an overwhelming set of circumstances led by unforeseen change? A quick answer is that it is often a combination of conflicting realities and things that are occurring internally and externally. Another question to ask is what is the effect of the leader-manger on an organization that is actively striving for the win? For starters, I offer that it is the combination of visioning and inspiring to lead while also being able to organize, recognize, calculate, and direct movement toward verifiable outcomes.
A final question, what is the role of the leader-manager? If I think again about Margaret Wheatley's contribution, I come to the position that one role is to help facilitate the interconnecting of people to shape a sustainable system. Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky offer a second set of roles, developmental options, and criteria: "To lead is to live dangerously because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear--their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking--with nothing more to offer perhaps than a possibility." To which I say again that we live in an interdependent world. I offer the preceding statement not to minimize the severity or power of rapid change. Rather it is learning to see, experience, and find depth of possibility. Such depth can be far-reaching and fiery in the energy that is unleashed when change occurs. Responding to change takes personal recognition, thinking, action steps, a plan, and the willingness to contribute one's energy to adapt and manage through it to a desired state. Additionally, the stakes of grasping, recognizing, and dealing with change, and adapting to manage it become even greater when groups and networks of people are involved. Their networked energy needs to be formed in the midst of changing or changed conditions.
As I think about the future, I need to raise another contextual question. What is the potential for advancing leader-manager networking in the midst of intensifying globalization and unclear freedoms? In the current and foreseeable environment, I anticipate an increasing role for networked leader-mangers who can form diverse transformative relationships to grapple with and navigate the vastness of change in our times. I come to this conclusion for a number of reasons that are similar to Paul Krugman's discernment of some of the effects of globalization. The position is that changing times and conditions require a different mindset, communication strategies, methods and tools, and other interventions when seeking pathways to more human exchange and enterprise.
Concluding Thoughts and Next Steps
In 1994, John Naisbitt wrote "The bigger the world economy, the more powerful its smallest players. The entrepreneur is also the most important player in building the global economy. So much so that big companies are decentralizing and reconstituting themselves as networks of entrepreneurs." (Global Paradox) Naisbitt also referred to deconstruction as the driver of organization survival. Deconstructing may or may not be at work in building the global economy. However, contracting is occurring and also an expansion of ideas, ways of life, and potential markets. In 1994 Peter Senge related a story about (The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook) tribes in northern Natal in South Africa. When one traveler encounters another traveling in another direction, they say "If I see you then I am here and until you see me I do not exist." I have often interpreted this passage from Senge as a foundation for how a relationship might begin. As more travelers come together, this coming together could become a network with a particular purpose and goal. In a previous working association with Peter Senge and now in my work with The World Bank, the Occupational Research Centre in England, and the Portugal Conference on Community Development, there is for each entity an exploration of people coming together, getting people into relationships, and building networks.
At first glance this foundation seems not very complex. Yet, the reach and rapid expansion of globalization, the emergence and rebirth of nation states, the conflicts of race and group culture as well as the opportunities to gain when cultures share, and the broad questions of freedoms and learning really do matter both in the short and long term. I think that the networked leader-manager will encounter these undeniable influences and pressing realities in working with diverse people in the swirl of systems. These more interpersonal encounters are increasingly evident inside organizations and systems of all kinds around the world.
I intended in this paper to provide an early view of observations and ongoing work that reflects on the ability and capacity of organizations to achieve business and social progress in this shared world. As the 21st century advances, I think that transformative networking is viable because human creativity and innovation and the bridging of leader-manager and follower networks is facilitated by deliberate and practical transformative relationships in a growing number of organizations and community systems. The complexities of mixing active transitions, freedoms, energy, and transformative relationships will require more observation and study for further discussion.
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Dr. Calvin conducts research with a number of national and international groups in the areas of leadership, management development and practice, and cultures and life in organizational systems.
James R. Calvin, The Johns Hopkins University
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|Author:||Calvin, James R.|
|Publication:||SAM Advanced Management Journal|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2003|
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