Sunday 16 December 2007

Reality and Good Leadership

When reality is not reality...
I recently heard Dr. Sternberg speak at Tufts University in Boston, USA. He is a psychologist and also Dean of the College of Science and the Arts. He was also the President of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Sternberg spoke on "good leaders and bad leaders". His presentation was excellent, and it was both personally and professionally challenging for me.
All of us in leadership struggle at times with areas of weakness and even areas of wrongness. Sometimes though, people in positions of responsibility can consistently "go down the wrong road" and negatively impact the well-being of others. Sternberg would refer to such people as being "bad" leaders. His comments were enlightening. Based on his research and experience, he emphasised that bad leaders ultimately deny/distort reality. This denial of reality, as we have noted in recent blog entries, is essentially what dysfunction is all about. He also made many other points. Some examples:
**They see themselves as being above accountability—“ethics” are for other people.
**They do not avail themselves of needed input from others to complement, balance, and correct themselves.
**They lapse into an unrealistic and often disguised sense of omnipotence, inerrancy, mega-importance, unrealistic optimism, and invulnerability.
**They become entrenched in their ways, even when it is obvious to others that these leaders are digging a bigger pit of mistakes into which they and others will fall.
**They may have high intelligence, but ultimately all the above makes them “foolish.”

Ultimately, bad leaders distort and ignore reality.
They create their own reality.
Bad leaders display a significantly diminished moral competency.
Reflection and Discussion
How do we respond to weakness and wrongness in ourselves and others?
For starters, consider the words of Ayn Rand, a noted philosopher from this century. She adamantly asserts that 'something always happens when we do nothing'. Read carefuly--it is well worth it. How would you relate Rand's words with those of Sternberg?
“It is not justice or equal treatment that you grant to men when you abstain equally from praising men’s virtues and from condemning men’s vices. When your impartial attitude declares, in effect, that neither the good nor the evil may expect anything from you---whom do you betray and whom do you encourage?”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Recently, I was reading all of the epistles again. So many of the letters backtrack to address bad behavior among leaders or members. It's a strange dichotomy. At our core, we are inheritantly evil. Expecting more from our congregations, brothers, friends in the Lord is illogical and disappointing---yet because of our new nature we hope and long for it all the time! From a distance, we can see the folly in electing any official, such as seen with a king among God's people for the first time in 1 Samuel. Over and over, we feel the suppression of the man/woman in charge because he/she is inept from the time of the fall until now. He/She will fail, will disappoint, will exhibit bad behavior, and likely not own their part much of the time. And yet, reconciliation requires it. It is my responsibility to forgive and attempt to live at peace with all. However, to forgive one does not require trusting again. Showing mercy when there is no change or attempt or admittance on the part of the wrongdoer is not mercy. It's enabling a bad behavior to continue---and you and I will have to give account for the times we appear to be turning the other cheek, when in fact, we're simply to afraid, to weak to confront the situation in love, get it straight, and then move on to mercy, reconciliation. Forgiveness is 70 x 7, and we should be first to seek it. But, expect human nature to fail often. With this state of realism, we are forced or perhaps better equipped to look at ourselves and all of those closest to us more realistically as sinners clothed in new skins---not with a jaundiced eyes, or unwillingness to be hurt or to trust, but with a more solid footing that better reminds us of who we more truly are and where we came from. It is my belief that only in doing so can you more deeply and repeatedly be in willing and sincere about living and forgiving in a fallen world.