Monday, January 17, 2011

What if ... a Leadership Museum?

There are all kinds of museums out there -- a hodgepodge dedicated to collecting everything from Zippo lighters, to slot machines, to cigar box art. So it should not be hard to imagine a museum dedicated to something really basic in human experience -- leadership. Below is what a leadership museum might look like:

Ralph Hauenstein's words declare the mission at the entrance of the museum:

“In the 20th century, I saw with my own eyes the worst leaders were capable of doing. In the 21st century, I want to encourage the best leaders possible for the sake of my children and my children’s children….” ~Ralph W. Hauenstein
The Leadership Museum gives viewers an inspirational as well as a provocative view of great leaders and the leadership qualities we all could cultivate. The museum is designed to appeal to young people, and offer space that brings together emerging leaders with established leaders -- more mature individuals who have devoted their lives to leadership and service.

The foyer offers a map of the various exhibits that take viewers through different leadership types, traits, styles, and theories as illustrated by real leaders. Although different ages and different cultures stress different qualities that are sought in leaders, most of the elements of effective, ethical leadership are timeless.

What are the half-dozen traits that are found in the best leaders?

  • In dealings with others, moral compass -- a good character, integrity, trustworthiness, steadiness, persistence, courage to make tough decisions.
  • In dealings with matters of state, a constellation of principles – around justice, order, freedom, equality, karma, opportunity.
  • Foresight (Greek pronoia): Themistocles is the great exemplar in the ancient Greek world. Michael Roberto's recent work emphasizes that leaders must be problem seekers, not just problem solvers (which is what managers do).
  • Vision; vision answers the questions: what changes? What stays the same? when setting priorities and an agenda.
  • Relationship ability to build a consensus around that vision, which includes communication skills and emotional intelligence.
  • Even psychological quirkiness can be an aid to the mix – often compensating for depression or dyslexia, or controlling narcissism or some kind of dependent personality disorder.

The evolving story of leadership is told in five halls or five parts.

Ancient and Medieval Hall

The two dominant paradigms are Plutarch’s heroes in the Greco-Roman world (cultivated through a mimetic education) and the prophets and saints in the Judeo-Christian-Medieval world (cultivated by imitating Torah and Bible heroes in the early period, and saints after Jesus). Carlyle secularized this "Great Man" theory in the 19th century. Personal stories would illustrate the heroes and saints, reinforced by exhibits of the humanists’ copy book, the horn book, and George Washington’s “Rules of Civility."

Early Modern Hall
(The Modern Rebellion)

Background context to understand the rise of the individual in the modern age:
- Jacob Burckhardt’s Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy argues that the Renaissance saw the creation of the cult of individualism. This buttressed the leader as a charismatic hero of his people.
- Luther’s writings and actions relocate authority from the institution of the Roman Catholic Church to the individual. If you are given the Bible in your vernacular, how do YOU interpret it? Significantly, Luther breaks with the Roman Catholic Church – “Hier stehe ich; ich kann nicht anders” – and rends Christendom, which soon will be reconceived as “Western civilization.”
- Machiavelli’s prince disengages from traditional sources of authority: pope, emperor, extermal authority, and even ethical systems … and emphasizes the roles and personas of the individual leader over his people. Perhaps he is the first utilitarian leader, as well, applying the principle of the greatest happiness of the greatest number on the basis of pleasure (rewards) and pain (punishments).
- Note the synchronicity of the relocation of authority from a great centralizing institution (church and/or empire) to the individual, evident in both Luther and Machiavelli. Burckhardt brilliantly described the new paradigm of the early modern age.

- Notions of community and the social covenant begin to change dramatically with the onset of modernity. Tribes, dynastic loyalties, and old nations are reconceived by Hobbes and Locke: there is nature (where people are out of reach of government and civil society, e.g., on the frontier), and there is the social contract (requiring consent and sovereignty in the process of overcoming nature). Rethinking community in terms of the social contract leads people to question political relations from the ground up. Tradition no longer suffices to justify the social compact. Leadership will have to respond accordingly.

- Final background point: For a variety of reasons, Western civilization in the modern age develops a greater tolerance for diversity, boundary transgressions, and paradigm shifts than any other civilization ever. Perhaps it arises out of deep roots such as Sophocles' Antigone and the Hebrew prophets who, as lone voices, could "speak truth to power." The exhibits in this hall review the reasons for this unique quality of Western civilization. The abundance of “civic labs” – absolute monarchies, constitutional monarchies, republics, a democracy – gives rise to a correspondingly large number of leadership examples, types, styles, and theories.

~~ Intervening Space ~~
The American Hall

America has been the greatest laboratory of leadership ever, due to the robustness of the three major sectors that define our public life: for-profit, governmental, and philanthropic. Note that the latter two sectors receive their support from the revenue collected from the fruits of the for-profit sector. Leaders understand that businesses must keep making money to support the government and philanthropic sectors adequately.

American history can be told as a series of narratives of great leadership.
- one manifestation of modernity is the commercial revolution and emerging middle class. Of Americans, Benjamin Franklin was the greatest early modern middle class leader.
- The American Revolution in 3 parts, and the implications for leadership
o 1760-1775: resistance to tyranny and reclaiming the ancient rights of Englishmen. How did this struggle impact leadership?
o 1775-1781: fighting for independence and justly ordered liberty in a confederation of republics (tension between the strong unifying commander in chief, George Washington (in a dress rehearsal for being the later president of the U.S., vis-à-vis decentralized anti-federalists). How did this struggle impact leadership?
o 1781-1801: constitution making and building the New Republic with new (federalist) leaders. How did this challenge impact leadership?

Later American leaders act as mirrors and lamps in the new republic.
- Andrew Jackson
- Daniel Webster
- Abraham Lincoln vs. Jefferson Davis (parallel lives motif of Plutarch)
- Grover Cleveland
- TR
- Woodrow Wilson

Late Modern (Postmodern?) Hall

The tensions and implications of modernity are working themselves out to this day.
- Freud, a man of the Enlightenment, shows the limits of the Enlightenment in the powerfully irrational subconscious drives of human beings.
- Gustav LeBon complements Freud when he invents social psychology in The Crowd.

The loss of the hierarchical, authoritarian, tradition-rich, premodern community created a crisis in community and opened up new possibilities of leadership.
- One manifestation of this crisis is the attempt to be the Third Rome. (Rome had been the last unifier of Europe.) The cross-national architecture of the period shows the attempt to revive the image of Rome.
- Other manifestations were totalitarian reconstitutions of community, and these relied on the cult of the charismatic leader (Hitler with an assist by Goebbels, Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, Salazar) and devoted followers, all around the powerful use of symbols.
- From Sigmund Freud to Hannah Arendt to Orwell, the cult of the dominating charismatic leader and his primitive appeal to power dominated Continental studies.
- FDR, himself no totalitarian, nevertheless absorbed the climate of opinion and wished to exploit the cult of the charismatic leader with his fireside chats, martial imagery in the First Inaugural Address, etc.

Leaders (both as mirrors of and lamps for society) vigorously reacted to the utilitarian and industrial organization of modern society.
- One extreme: The great evil leaders of the modern age had to be resisted head on by force and violence. Churchill and Patton were reincarnations of romantic warrior, expressing the traditional spirit of medieval chivalry and Greek martial citizenship. (Reflections of Plutarch and Carlyle) Churchill and Patton certainly accepted modern technical advances, but their paradigm of leadership belonged to another age.
- At the other extreme: In the age of impersonal killing – of carpet bombing and atomic weaponry, which could magnify evil on earth to an unprecedented degree – Gandhi and Martin Luther King sought social justice through consistently peaceful, ethical, right action. They are prophetic leaders, even secular saints.
- As we have seen, FDR adapted the cult of the personality to a democratic polity. He and his kind are modern democratic leaders.
- Another style emerges: Some at the top of organizations, in reaction against the cult of the charismatic leader, reflected a Weberian managerial style that deemphasized the cult of personality. The managerial leader is an expression of Enlightenment ideals.
- Reflecting the psychological sophistication of the modern west, Bill Clinton is the therapeutic leader.
- Note that all these elements can be called forth in any individual leader. But one paradigm or style dominates and becomes a type for study and imitation.

Leadership and You

What will you build in this great leadership lab called America?
- various modern leadership theories – transactional, transformational, trait, servant, situational, etc. – will help you understand yourself as an emerging leader or apprentice leader.
- Build a leader: What traits do you want your leader to have? Do you want to have?
- No excuses: Just do it.

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