Tag Archives: Leader

When Will the United States Next Have a Transformational President on Domestic Policy?

I was catching up on some of the journal articles I’ve accumulated to read over the last year and I one caught my eye: “Transformational and transactional presidents,” by Joseph Nye, Jr. In the article, Nye makes the case that presidents didn’t matter (as much) to the US developing into a great power as we may have previously thought. Furthermore, Nye makes the case that our definitions of the two types of leadership aren’t clear and that the preference for transformational leaders is misplaced.

One of the parts that I enjoyed about this brief article was how Nye identified that presidents can be transformational and transactional at the same time. How? Because there are many different facets to a presidency and so while a president may be transformational in domestic policy, they might not be in foreign policy. Similarly, they can not be transformational in foreign policy early on in their term, but become transformational in response to external events.

Upon finishing the article, I was left wondering if (when?) the United States will again have a transformational president, with regard to domestic policy. Nye didn’t make this case in the article (but maybe he did in his book?), but based on his definition of transformational leaders, with regard to objectives [seeking major change], President Obama was certainly a transformational president. Obamacare is a sweeping change to the way that the US administers healthcare to its people. At the time, President Obama also enjoyed majorities in both the Senate and the House, so this kind of change was more possible (especially more possible than it is now. Can you imagine Pres. Obama trying to pass anything close to Obamacare with the GOP-controlled House and Senate?)

Given Hillary Clinton’s speech this past weekend, I’m inclined to think that she has ideas about domestic policy that would make her a transformational president. However, based on what’s been written about the likelihood of the GOP to continue to hold the majority in the House (redistricting, etc.), it doesn’t seem like there’s likely to be a Democratic-controlled House for the next few election cycles. It’s possible that the Senate flips back to the Democrats in 2016, but they’d need the House to also make a “big change.” So, it seems that, if there’s going to be a transformational president (on domestic policy), it’d have to come from the GOP.

I haven’t been following too closely the candidates from the GOP side, especially with regard to their domestic policy ideas, but is there a transformational president amongst them? There could be, but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. If neither party is able to sweep the polls in 2016, we might be waiting for a transformational president on domestic policy in the US until at least the next decade.

ResearchBlogging.orgNye, J. (2013). Transformational and transactional presidents Leadership, 10 (1), 118-124 DOI: 10.1177/1742715013512049

Why Women are Better CEOs, Presidents, and Prime Ministers

New research shows that women are far better at handling stress than men. I suppose that’s not a newsflash as most people already think that’s true, but consider the way in which this study frames it [Emphasis added]:

We consistently found the same general response pattern: while stressed women showed higher self-other distinction than women in the non-stressful control condition, men showed the converse pattern. More specifically, stressed women showed reduced emotional egocentricity bias, enabling them to judge the emotions of the other person in a way that was less influenced by their own emotional state. Moreover, their response times in the cognitive perspective-taking task decreased under stress, documenting that they were able to regulate the mismatch between their own and the “director’s” perspective faster under stress. Finally, stressed women showed a reduction of automatic imitative tendencies in the imitation-inhibition task, indicating that they were able to overcome low-level social signals interfering with their own movement intentions. Note that the latter finding is crucial. It highlights that women did not simply show an increase in other-related responses under stress – as this would have resulted in increased interference from automatic imitation. Instead, they were able to flexibly increase either self- or other-related representations, depending on the task demands which either required overcoming egocentric biases, or overcoming social interference.

As the stereotype goes, women are more “emotional” than men, so it would be much better for an organization or unit if it were managed by a man. However, this research is telling us that, when under stress, it is men who are less able to distinguish their emotional state from the intentions of those around them. It is men who are more adversely affected by stress. For women, it’s the opposite. In fact, women tend to be more prosocial [behaviour intended to benefit others] when they’re stressed. Meaning, instead of retreating inward, women are actually more helpful when they’re stressed.

This research certainly makes one think about the way that many organizations and countries are run today. Most people would agree that being a CEO, President, or Prime Minister certainly comes with oodles of stress. Unfortunately, the number of women who hold these positions is far outweighed by their male counterparts. Of course, there are a number of reasons for that, which we won’t get into in this post, but consider for a moment if the numbers were flipped. That is, what if there were more women CEOs (or high-powered leaders)? Or, what even if it was 50/50! What if the number of high-powered leaders and CEOs was 50% women and 50% men? At that point, would it be easier for folks to see, understand, and digest that women are actually better leaders and better at handling the stress?

Maybe it’s the language we use.

A quick Google search showed mixed results for “women are better CEOs.” In fact, many of the results near the top indicated that women CEOs are more likely to be fired. However, when I keyed in “women are better leaders,” I got plenty of positive results. Posts on Harvard Business Review, Business Insider, and articles talking about academic research in newspapers like The Globe and Mail.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the world during my time in it, it’s that change (usually) happens gradually. Rarely is there a massive cultural shift overnight. So, here’s hoping that research like this contributes to the realization for some that when it comes to managers and leadership, women just might have an edge over men.

ResearchBlogging.orgTomova L, von Dawans B, Heinrichs M, Silani G, & Lamm C (2014). Is stress affecting our ability to tune into others? Evidence for gender differences in the effects of stress on self-other distinction. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 43, 95-104 PMID: 24703175

The Habits of Societies: The Power of Habit, Part 3a

In Part 1a, we had an introduction Duhigg’s book on habits. In Part 1b, we looked at some of the highlights and the key points from the first section (on individuals) of the book. In yesterday’s post, we looked some of the stories that Duhigg shared in the second section about Michael Phelps, Alcoa, Starbucks, and the Rhode Island Hospital.  In today’s post, we’ll look at the last section of the book on societies.

Because of my sense that I’m meant to be a leader of a very large organization, I was particularly excited to get to the section on societies. It certainly did not disappoint. There were only two chapters in this section. The first chapter talked about movements: the civil rights movement in the 1960s and Rick Warren. With regard to the civil rights movement, Duhigg tells the story of how we came to know Rosa Parks. I was shocked to learn that Parks wasn’t the only (nor was she the first!) black person to take a stand (metaphorically) against the injustice in the South. In fact, there had been others like her who tried to remain in their seats on the bus, but no movements formed after their decision to remain steadfast.

Part of the reason that Parks created such a stir was because of how connected she was to her community. When people learned that Parks had been arrested, people wanted to help. Simply wanting to help wasn’t enough. As we learn, all of this willingness to help had to be funneled into a new activity: civil disobedience. There’s a particular powerful passage that I want to share. In my reading of the passage, it makes me think that this was one of the important turning points of civil rights movement:

As the bus boycott expanded from a few days into a week, and then a month, and then two months, the commitment of the Montgomery’s black community began to wane.

The police commissioner, citing an ordinance that required taxicabs to charge a minimum fare, threatened to arrest cabbies who drove blacks to work at a discount. The boycott’s leaders responded by signing up two hundred volunteers to participate in a carpool. Police started issuing tickets and harassing people at carpool meeting spots. Drivers began dropping out. “It became more and more difficult to catch a ride,” King later wrote. “Complaints began to rise. From early morning to late at night my telephone rang and my doorbell was seldom silent. I began to have doubts about the ability of the Negro community to continue the struggle.”

One night, while King was preaching at his church, an usher ran up with an urgent message. A bomb had exploded at King’s house while his wife and infant daughter were inside. King rushed home and was greeted by a crowd of several hundred blacks as well as the mayor and the chief of police. His family had not been injured, but the front windows of his home were shattered and there was a crater in his porch. If anyone had been in the front rooms of the house when the bomb went off, they could have been killed.

As King surveyed the damage, more and more blacks arrived. Policemen started telling the crowds to disperse. Someone shoved a cop. A bottle flew through the air. One of the policemen swung a baton. The police chief, who months earlier had publicly declared his support for the racist White Citizen’s Council, pulled King aside and asked him to do something — anything — to stop a riot from breaking out.

King walked to his porch.

“Don’t do anything panicky,” he shouted to the crowd. “Don’t get your weapons. He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword.”

The crowd grew still.

“We must love our white brothers, no matter what they do to us,” King said. “We must make them know that we love them. Jesus still cries out in words that echo across the centuries: ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; pray for them that despitefully use you.'”

“We must meet hate with love,” King [said].

Powerful.

The parts about Rick Warren were equally powerful, but when contrasted with the life/death matters of the civil rights movement, it’s hard to see it in the same light.

Because I’ve shared an excerpt from this book about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, I thought it best to talk about the last chapter of the section in a different post. Look for it tomorrow.

Thirty Leaders and Two Followers: Can We All Be Leaders?

A few weeks ago, I was preparing to teach by re-reading the chapter for which the material we’d be covering in class. Part of the class session was going to be spent on leadership. Granted, this is an undergraduate textbook in organizational behavior, I was truly disappointed to find that of the 30+ pages on leadership, there were only two — 2 — pages spent talking about followers. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a successful leader without followers.

One of the broader issues here is math. Of all the people in the world, how many of them do you think will be leaders? Of all the people in the world, how many of them do you think will be followers? I’m not saying that people shouldn’t strive to be leaders or be the best they can be, but based on our current definition/understanding of leadership, not everyone will spend a great deal of their time being a leader. In fact, most people will spend the majority of their lives being followers — and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, many of the people that we think of as great leaders were — in fact — once followers. Some say you have to be a good follower before you can be a good leader, but I’m not really going to get into leadership philosophy right now.

Instead, I wanted to draw to your attention to the amount of time we spend thinking about, talking about, and teaching leadership and the absolute void with regard to following. For instance, a quick Google search returns over 450,000,000 results for leadership, but only 420,000 for followership. You might think that’s not a fair comparison, so what about how to be a good follower or how to be a good leader? Follower returns: 54,000,000 (though I think some of these might be returning religious results). Leader returns: 1,350,000.

While leadership is more revered, it certainly seems like there’s room in the popular literature for a few great books on followers and how to be a good one.