Magnificent Men! Leadership Lunch
Bob Schulz, Ph.D, MBA
January 25, 2013
U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower said that “leadership is getting other people to do what you want them to do, because they want to do it.”
As a consultant, I use a 28-item instrument to ask about four key factors for leadership and corporate culture: mission (strategic direction), power (hierarchical top-down decisions), rules, and values (working together). Of 15,000 people in the database, all wanted less power exerted on them and all 15,000 wanted more team values.
A hospital supply company had large culture gaps, with too much power exerted by superiors and too little shared values. Subordinates suggested a weekly ice bucket award would reward those who bailed out their colleagues. There was great shared good-natured enthusiasm why the ice bucket would be on the desk of someone in each department. Then the CEO said “Rather than an ice bucket, the company should have a bed pan award for the biggest mistake each week. “ The great enthusiasm of the subordinates disappeared very quickly, like the air from a balloon. My advice of “let’s first try the ice bucket“ recaptured only part of the previous enthusiasm, as the stinging pain from power remained.
In contrast, I have witnessed extraordinary positive cultures, particularly at the University of Virginia, founded in 1819 by US President Thomas Jefferson. Many times every day from many people, the phrase, “What would Mr. Jefferson say about that?” was used to counter people who had little vision or creativity. Imagine someone trying to argue status quo versus Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and invented polygraphs, specialized clocks, and many mechanical devices.
Haskayne intercollegiate business student teams have ranked #1 or #2 for 34 of 35 years in Canada, won 80 national championships, and received many international awards. Even though the students were doing well after the first five years, I wanted to be a better coach and therefore asked elite sports coaches for advice on how to go from good to great.
The coaches included Ken Shields (seven consecutive university basketball championships), Deryk Snelling (Olympic swimming), and Debbie Muir (Olympic synchronized swimming). They all shared their insights, so I learned about the concept of starting at the championship finish line and working backwards for training, developing detailed documentation of skills, and asking athletes to assess their own training performances. Soon, the Haskayne teams started winning far more gold medals.
At the request of the Olympic coaches, I shared my ideas on how synchronized swimmers could get higher scores from judges and ways for the swimmers not to burnout from too much emphasis on swimming. My point is that top coaches (and managers) should ask, learn, and share advice from others.
We all have gifts and core competencies, so it is helpful for all leaders to reflect on their own lived experiences and remember key moments, positive and negative, in their lives. Further, leaders should recall times when they saw beyond looking, listened beyond hearing, asked before talking, and consulted before deciding.
The best leaders form bubbles to protect their subordinates, communicate team needs upward, and connect with the external world to bring back good ideas and resources for their subordinates.
Our cause today is that of male survivors of child sexual abuse. Our challenge is twofold—rehabilitation of the survivors and breaking the cycle of those abused abusing others.
Fortunately, I have never experienced such atrocities, but am aware of their existence, primarily through the media. However, there are similarities between power relationships in business and power relationships for child sexual abuse.
My former professor, Dr. Ralph Stogdill wrote the first article on leadership in 1948 and edited the first Handbook of Leadership. Forty years ago, he told me that at least 100,000 research studies were needed to understand leadership.
Perhaps we can generate faster leadership insights by starting with rehabilitation of leaders who do unto others the bad things done by their superiors to them. Hopefully, we can coach future leaders to “Do unto others as they would have done to them.”
In the aggregate, if each of us finds ways to be servant leaders, Calgary can become the city that the world so desperately needs us to be.
Professor Bob Schulz
Haskayne School of Business
U of C