Lost Leadership?How to Rediscover It

Earlier this month, The Huffington Post published an article titled “Low Trust-High Demand” about ethical leadership, which was written by Georg Kell, the founder of the United Nations Global Compact and Vice Chairman of Arabesque Partners. This disturbing headline was based on an annual Edelman Trust Barometer survey. Most troubling in that data was the finding that the upper income educated demographic is experiencing growing trust in governments,business, and media ,while the broader segments of society are becoming “distrusters”. Today’s political theatre could be a striking example of raging distrust spewing forth from certain segments of the American populace.

Just a few weeks ago, The Washington Post columnist, Richard Cohen, wrote that the world wide immigration crisis is the result of a lack of leadership. He says that we need more leaders who know how to say “Hold on a minute. Let’s work this out “.

Recently Government Executive magazine writer Katherine McIntire Peters wrote an article titled “Poor Leadership Not Technology Derailed the Obama care Rollout”.

Over two years ago, I developed a blog appropriately called ” The High Price of Cheap Leadership “. It includes a similar conclusion about the Obamacare website project. In addition, it provided commentary about our confidence in our leaders, which is increasingly misplaced.

Why do we face this unraveling of sound ethical leadership ? First I believe that leaders today are unprepared for the sharp changes in our social, cultural, religious, political , and commercial marketplaces. Moreover we have undergone a shift in our core values ,lifestyles and our access to an explosion of information. Just as obvious are the rising levels of all forms of diversity sweeping through our country and not surprisingly our society and its structures.

These game changing trends have moved the leadership ground like quick sand under the feet of our industrial age 20th century leaders. As a result we face an epidemic of CHEAP LEADERSHIP. At the same time you can be a part of t forming a new effective leadership doctrine. Since you have taken the time to read this article you do have a stake in becoming or following high-value leadership. Your business, church ministry, community organization, political campaign even your own mentees are calling on you to lead effectively. Who will if you do not– and you know how to ?

Looking back on 30 plus years as an effective and productive leader I have some proven principles and sound practices that address the outcry for high value leadership.

Please visit my blog at http://www.thehighpriceofcheapleadership.com or contact me at arnoldjackson@verizon.net,301 466 8852.

Enough of the high price we pay for CHEAP LEADERSHIP>

AJ

Follow, Manage, Lead, the choice of your life

Our desperate need for strong leaders with sparkling inner values and a call to serve seems unfulfilled in any corner of today’s 21st century marketplace of public or private institutions. Maybe we are dipping into a pool of leader candidates who make poor choices to become leaders. Many of our current leaders were identified early in their career journey as high potential persons worthy of fast tracking, mentoring, targeted assignments and selected exposure to executives, customers, financial backers and political contacts. The anointed ones chosen for greatness seldom resist such seductive attention. This in turn creates a false sense of a call to duty. Missing in many cases is the piercing self- examination that we should engage in when facing the gateways from successful discipleship to well discharged management that earned us a view of the lofty mountain range of leadership. Here are some critical questions that we should ask ourselves.

1.Have I ever thought of myself as born to lead others ?

2 Which of my past experiences that involved influencing others have been unquestionably successful ?

3.Are my core values consistent with the vision , mission and operating practices of this organization ?

4.Can I truly say that I admire the leaders I have seen at the head of this organization since I have been here ?

5.Is the organization primed and ready for major change ?

6.If I lead some part or all of this organization will I have any dedicated followers from day one ?

7.Am I ready to let go of the technical or specialist roles that kept me engaged and fulfilled until now ?

Quite possibly our honest answers are “no” or “not really” to the questions above.

If so then leadership at this time in whatever place you find yourself may be best for another time and place in your path to further advancement, greater satisfaction, and peace of mind along the way.

AJ

Priceless Leadership; and What We Can Learn from Unsung Heroes

Today and all this month of February we celebrate the remarkable contributions and the hard won accomplishments of several generations of African American leaders. Black History month invites us to renew our cherished memories of inspiring leaders from years past. This special time also seems incomplete without some mention of the unsung Black leaders who offer us a glimpse of the leadership traits and talents they embodied even under the press of the 1860s civil war period and the brutal years following emancipation in January, 1863. We can learn much about leadership for today from these courageous leaders who toiled for others while risking life and limb.

Our most admired leaders of today sometimes prove themselves in times of stress or crisis. We look for the very best when corporations, government programs or political campaigns fall into trouble. Similarly, the stark reality of civil war style racism that included prohibitions on the most basic freedoms like reading and writing or owning property certainly represented unfriendly circumstances for leadership development.

Nevertheless, Isaiah T. Montgomery, Mary Smith Peake, and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper are a few of the African American Leaders we should applaud today ,this month and always. They symbolize the many unacknowledged African American leaders forged by a time of immense opposition to people of color. Their work was in the trenches with black slaves who had recently been freed. With no models of best practices for leaders they drew upon their natural gifts to carve out places in history they never really sought. I doubt that the concepts of strategic planning or organization transformation existed then. What did exist deep within these unsung leaders was a vision of an entire race of people moving swiftly from bondage to true freedom. A word about them seems merited.

ISAIAH T. MONTGOMERY; Born in 1847 on a plantation just below Vicksburg, Mississippi. By age 12 or so he was the valet and personal assistant to Joseph Davis the older brother— and social advocate for slaves— of Jefferson Davis. Years later Jefferson Davis served as President of the confederate states. After the civil war ended this enterprising African American man and his family purchased a large plantation from the Davis family at a price of $300,000. That deal made them one of that region’s largest cotton producers. Further after numerous glory years and some tough times they were driven into bankruptcy. Undaunted, in 1887 Isaiah showcased his leadership skill by founding the town of Mound Bayou , as a commercial center for a large independent black community of farmers. Isaiah led over 800 farmers who owned about 30,000 acres at the time. Notables Theodore Roosevelt and Booker T. Washington saluted his work. Today , Mound Bayou remains as a predominantly African American Farming town in the state of Mississippi.

MARY SMITH PEAKE; Born in 1823 as a free woman in Norfolk , Virginia. At the young age of 6, this remarkable African American woman had been educated in Alexandria, Virginia then a part of the District of Columbia. Years later Congress passed legislation banning the education of free people of color. Back in Virginia, she undertook the high risk venture of covertly teaching slaves and free blacks to read and write which was against the law of that day. However with her vision firmly planted and her leadership brilliance now emerging the American Missionary Society paid Mary to teach the children of former slaves near Fort Monroe just outside Hampton,Virginia. Her teaching began in 1861 under a large tree . That tree was the site of a gathering in 1863 where the surrounding community heard the first Southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. Known as Emancipation Oak the tree still stands on the campus of Hampton University an outgrowth of Mary Smith Peake’s classes and her school which had attracted support from the federal government’s Freedmen’s Bureau .Mary Smith Peake is legitimately credited by some as leading the first formal education of freed slaves in this country and spurring the establishment of a prominent institution of higher learning standing proudly today as Hampton University.

FRANCES ELLEN WALKER HARPER; Born in 1825 as a free woman in Baltimore, Maryland. Frances Harper was so multi talented that her leadership traits seem somewhat buried beneath her work as a writer, publisher, poet and seamstress. She somehow found the time and the calling to assist escaped slaves along the Underground Railroad as they scurried to Canada. Frances let her leadership show further when she joined the American Anti Slavery Society in 1853. That was 10 years prior to President Lincoln’s proclamation. By 1873 Frances as a true leader was on full display as she assumed the position of superintendent of the Colored Section of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania National Association of Colored Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
20 years later she was a founder of the National Association of Colored Women and she served as that organization’s first vice president. To some she is called the mother of African American journalism. Frances Harper was a most uncommon leader endowed with boundless gifts and talents.

These 3 towering examples of unsung heroes from the Black History journey leave us some distinctly valuable leadership lessons that can be applied today.
* No fear. When faced with compelling risks and daunting odds these leaders stepped up and brushed aside the paralyzing uncertainty that can undermine any leader’s agenda.
* A deep level of devotion to the cause. Clearly these leaders put their safety and any financial stability or social status ahead of the chosen missions they undertook.
* Authenticity. The work these 3 did attracted followers when all they could offer was a vision and a hope of better times. Raw commitment like that on the part of a leader is transformative.
* Encourager and Supporter. When faced with the types of obstacles these leaders encountered they had to transfer their vision , courage , focus and energy to doubting and fearful followers. They did not have the luxury of selecting a team or a band of believers to be their followers.
*Communicator and advocate. These leaders were highly effective in painting a picture of a different future and selling that to followers, sponsors and doubters. A leader in the near hopeless conditions they faced must keep the message alive.

As we salute these unsung leaders during this Black History month of recognition let’s remember all the unrecognized or forgotten leaders we have learned from and modeled to create our personal leadership stories.

AJ

Leadership Lessons from Nelson Mandela

The passing of Nelson Mandela ignited a worldwide outpouring of love, respect and admiration for one of the most compelling figures of the past several decades. As the reality of his death settled in our spirits we were reminded that never again in our lifetimes would we witness a leader so special as this giant of a man who was largely responsible for the demise of a relentless system of unparalleled racial oppression and bias in South Africa. As we watched his imprisonment for over 27 years our hearts welcomed him as the ideal of what an effective leader looks like in a crisis atmosphere .
Now that he is no longer with us I have reflected on a few of his leadership qualities that captured our minds and refreshed our faith in humankind. Here are my reflections ;
1. We are encouraged greatly when we actually see for ourselves the very best in a human being that gives life and meaning to the endless stream of expert theories about leadership.
2. A demonstration of boundless sacrifice for others is spellbinding and comforting to see in a leader.
3. We seldom if ever see a leader discard anger, resentment, revenge, and raw power as tools of the trade. He did .
4. As leaders if we live out principled core values in our journey there is a powerful force of persuasion that spreads far and wide.
5. While we have all studied leadership and what succeeds or fails ; we react with uncommon devotion and emotion to the qualities of Nelson Mandela because they are so rarely found in our leaders.
6. A leader can use her/his authenticity, transparency and humility to do transformative things.
7. Leadership in the 21st. century will look more like the awesome example of Nelson Mandela and less like the top down methods of the 20 century.

Leadership Qualities for Today’s Challenges

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Famed business guru and renowned author Jim Collins has, in some ways, revolutionized our thinking about successful leadership qualities through his best-selling books, lectures and videos. In particular, I found the “Built to Last”, “Good to Great” and “Great by Choice” series of books to be very interesting. In carrying out his research, Collins has been able to popularize the concept called ‘Level 5 Leaders’.

While his work is thought of as more business focused, I believe that his theories can be applied to a much broader range of leadership settings.

I think what Collins discovered is that ‘Level 5 Leaders’ have made a huge difference in an organization’s ability to raise its performance from ‘Good to Great’. As most of us know from our own experiences, it’s a rare territory for an organization, a team or an individual to perform at this level. To think that one single leader can be the difference between an entire organization’s successes or failures is both fascinating and foreboding. But it is these qualities that inspire legions of followers to higher heights of achievement; yet seem so elusive in situations suffering from ‘Cheap Leadership’.

For months, we have been flooded with news about the Affordable Health Care missteps that were, I think, a great example of poor leadership qualities within the federal government. In the public sector, we witnessed a Wall Street firm in a long legal battle with the federal government over the risky mortgage practices that became synonymous with the financial crisis. The result of poor leadership: a $13 billion settlement, which is the largest sum a single company has ever paid to the government.

Where were the leaders in that firm and could they have made the kind of difference Jim Collins talks about? What leadership qualities were missing? Trust, transparency, and humility, just to name a few, are repeated by several management or leadership gurus like John C. Maxwell as the bedrock of leadership qualities.

Maxwell, in his noteworthy book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership; Follow them and People Will Follow You,” included character, courage, discernment, self-discipline, and vision, among his 21 laws of leadership. These qualities stretch our thinking beyond the attributes of intelligence, domain experience, and technical depth—though none of those can be dismissed for strong leadership attributes either. What seems more worthy of discussion is what qualities do we find critical for strong leadership? Can those qualities be taught or learned over time? And, are we witnessing more and more a selection and reward system for leaders that has obscured these qualities in favor of other seemingly more appealing personal attributes?

Let me know: what are the best leadership qualities that you have witnessed in your current or former managers? Finally, why do you think that they are successful leaders?

AJ

The Human Cost of the Government Shutdown

Source: cinemuck.com

Source: cinemuck.com

For over four decades, I have worked as either a consultant or a senior executive for both the private and public sectors. During that time, I had become a trusted advisor and confidant to many ‘leaders’ who wielded major influence over their followers. As a result, I have been privileged enough to have been engaged in countless conversations and deliberations with or about peers and subordinates who revealed their level of job satisfaction, overall happiness, or lack of, with the organization.

Time and time again, the typical dialogue with employees always started with those mundane technical or procedural issues only to end with complaints about the leadership styles of those who managed the organization.  At times, I found it difficult to be privy to those countless conversations because I was well-aware that in many cases it was just a matter those ‘internal politics’ that shaped the culture. It was the way that most organizations operated and survived. Then there were those ‘external politics’ that blew through the halls of each and every organization like a virus; and was often successful in tearing through the very core of those organizations. I was reminded of the consequences of ‘external politics’ during the recent government shut down.

According to reports from the Office of Management and Budget, the October’s 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government cost taxpayers about $2 billion in lost productivity from 850,000 furloughed employees. The statistics were the result of a report produced to show ‘the economic toll of the gridlock in Congress’.  In the report, the budget office estimated in 1996 that the two shutdowns in late 1995 and early 1996, which lasted 26 days total, cost the government $1.4 billion, or roughly $2.1 billion in today’s dollars.

But what about the human costs?

During the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns, I was the chief information officer for a federal agency. And I witnessed firsthand how the ‘external politics’ of our political leaders tore into the very depths of the organization and produced long-lasting issues with employee morale, productivity, and most importantly, a confidence in our political as well as organizational leaders.  When we returned to work after the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns, I noticed more than a bit of re-entry adjustment after an unexpected absence.

Highly dedicated people who had devoted their professional lives to public service were wrestling with feelings of low self-esteem and abandonment. In so many ways, directly and indirectly, employees were told that their years of dedication and contributions to the federal government had very little value. Then in the years that followed, there were the budget stand offs that produced more shutdown threats and continuing resolutions as an ancedote to the intractable political posturing that only further convinced employees of their diminishing status as federal employees.

The price of that cheap leadership is paid daily throughout our federal workforce community.

As we move forward with examining the economic impact of the government shutdown, I think there also needs to be some healthy dialogue about the human impact; and how our ‘leaders’ should be making a real effort toward earning the confidence of those who follow.

Let me here about your experiences and your advice to others.

aj

The High Price of Cheap Leadership

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The shocking events that defined the “so called” roll out of the nation’s new website for our first major health insurance program— that will serve the rich, poor, young, old, healthy, and sick—have again led us back to questions of leadership.

While none or few of us will argue that serving over 30 million uninsured Americans is anything other than a daunting challenge; most of us still have an abiding confidence in our 21st century technologies, management methods and most importantly, our leadership acumen to pull off even the most ambitious programs.

The question remains: Has our confidence in our leaders been misplaced?

Have we rationalized a steady stream of failed leadership in the public, private, religious, political, sports, and academic sectors through the lens of specialized circumstances relevant only to a singular event that grabs headlines for 15 minutes? Or do we face a crisis of really CHEAP leadership that is costing us an unbearable PRICE?

Common dictionaries define cheap as “something low in cost or relatively inexpensive”. Among the descriptions of the word “cheap” are:

1. Achieved with little effort.

2. Of small value.

3. Of poor quality.

4. Worthy of no respect, just to note a few.

Are our leaders considered small in value or of poor quality? Why do we continue to see the same ‘flawed leadership’ saga time and time again that seems to be marked by fragile core values, selfish ambition, tunnel vision, and hyper-political motivations? Is this the model for the 21st century leader?  Should we just throw out the playbook and finally admit to ourselves that what works in leading mission critical or high profile endeavors just does not conform to our core values?

And what about the price, that ultimately, we will all have to pay?  As followers, disciples, employees, and members, how much longer can we absorb the domino effect of flat out bad leadership compounded by somewhat dysfunctional management styles, which is the first cousin of CHEAP Leadership? We can, in fact, find ourselves cheapening our own concepts of leadership and followship. Today, those behavioral types like the paranoid, deceptive and opportunist have become commonplace. Are we prepared to pay the price for just plain bad behavior?

Perhaps, the answers to these questions should include a discussion about leadership qualities as well as our selection process. I am sure that your experiences are rich with pearls of wisdom about leadership.

Through the “The High Price of Cheap Leadership” blog, I will be exploring those costs.

Stay tuned and Let me hear from you!

aj