February 1, 2016

In one of my Sociology theory classes many years ago, we discussed the theorist Max Weber and his ideas concerning the nature of charisma. These discussions relate to leadership and how many leaders have a persona that attracts other people.  Individuals like Presidents  Kennedy, Reagan, and Obama give us real life examples of this.  In 1960, Kennedy visited our college campus to make an address on why he was running for the presidency He was an electrifying speaker.  I was overwhelmed by every word he said.   Years later I was in a hotel where Obama was speaking,  He was able to light up the room. People hung onto every word that he spoke. And yet, these three individuals still had unplanned crises to address during their presidencies with both positive and negative consequences. Although these men aimed high for their administration, they made mistakes and also adversaries.   Some  charismatic leaders can be evil in their actions while many lead from a more positive stance.  Hitler was an evil kind of leader.  Many followed him regardless.  Thus charisma will pull adherents in and their actions can dim the charismatic light and either have their followers abandon them and their leadership or remain followers blinded by the light.

What are some of the characteristics of a charismatic leader:

1. Better than average appearance.

2, Excellent communication skills.

3. Excellent public speakers with great eye contact.

4. Very successful in gaining followers who faithfully follow instructions.

5. Tend to be self-centered.

6. Appear trustworthy,

7. Generally aware of  understanding the context in which they apply action.

8. Strong motivator and influencer of followers.

9. Have tempers that are activated by people who disagree with them.

10.  Tendency to exaggerate and extend the truth in order to protect public image and personal self-esteem.

Think of leaders who you find charismatic and leaders who appear not to be charismatic.  Do they have the characteristics listed above,  Are thre important characteristics missing from the above list?



December 17, 2015

I was recently watching a presidential debate on television with nine potential presidential candidates.   What became clear over the two hour debate was that these nine people did not seem to agree on what a leader is or should be.  Politics often blurs definitions and agreements about policy.    It seems clear that leadership is not a static phenomenon.    The skills needed to be a successful and effective leader are not the same today as they were fifty years ago.    We no longer seem to respect our leaders and the decisions that they make.    For example, every decision our President makes is criticized regardless of the merits of the decision.  I would like to start a list of the skills needed for successful leadership today:

  1. A sense of humor is critical.  Humor often relieves stress.
  2. Regardless of your position on critical and non-critical issues, ethical decision-making should guide your performance.
  3. Science takes precedence over politics. Leaders must not discount scientific evidence.   It can be questioned and it needs to guide action.   For example, the issue of climate change needs to be addressed in a rational way.
  4. Racial  and religious dynamics are real.    Leaders must find ways to deal with the result of these dynamics.
  5. Respect your leaders even if you do not always agree with them.
  6. Do not distort facts in order to promote your own agenda.
  7. Collaboration is the secret of success in today’s world.

The lack of good leadership  is a major problem.   Yesterday’s leadership skills need to be modified to fit today’s world. Happy 2016.


November 30, 2015

One of the functions of a leader is to create a vision for the organization which he or she runs.  Not only must a vision be created, Kouzes and Posner argued that the leader needs to inspire a shared vision within the organization.  With this short background, I wish to tell a story about an international beverage company with shops all around the world.    Each shop has a manager with responsibility for living the vision of the organization, inspiring the staff of the shop to believe in the vision, and to provide high quality service.   At the top of the organization is a leader who believes that the organization needs to provide  high quality products, great customer service, and a respect for its employees.    Leader X created a vision for the overall organization built on these three dimensions.   He and his executive team has made sure that the beverages sold by the shop are varied and of high quality.    The cost of these products were reasonable and responsive to customer concerns.   Staff were encouraged to provide excellent customer service in an optimistic way.   For employees, health insurance is provided without cost after three months. All staff are trained and given training on a regular basis.  In addition tuition is provided to employees who wish to continue their education.   A young woman was hired by an assistant store manager on a part time basis in 2013.  She worked in the store for several months.   The store manager and the assistant manager had a falling out and the assistant transferred to another store.  The store manager criticized store employees on a regular basis.  She punished staff by cutting their hours.  She complained about employees to other employees and to her District manager.   She complained specifically about employees hired by her ex-assistant manager.  The young woman hired in 2013 decided she wished to return to school.   The manager started to criticize the woman on a daily basis.   She first cut the woman’s hours and then stop scheduling her completely.   The young woman quit.

Although the organization had a mechanism to reward the work of employees, the store manager did not live the vision of Leader X.   Vision need to permeate an organization and be supported at all levels of the organization.    I checked other stores and found store managers who also did not live the vision of Leader X.   Articles have appeared in local newspapers where employees have complained to the central office.. Resolution of these complaints have been invisible.  This story provides a scenario that needs to be a concern to the leadership of an organization.   Mechanisms need to be created to address these issues and provide meaningful  resolution.  Vision needs to be a part of the mind-set of each and every employee.


September 16, 2015


Joe K. was a strong person who had a large family and was very wealthy.  He believed that he and his family had the responsibility to give back to the community through family service.   He himself became an ambassador.   He taught all his children to be leaders and to give back to their community and to the nation. In fact, leadership became the family business.  Two of Joe’s sons were military heroes and one of those sons eventually became President of the United States. Two of the other sons became United States Senators.  One daughter started a family foundation.  Joe’s kids started the Special Olympics, Very Special Arts and other programs for mentally challenged individuals.  It would take a long list to describe all the leadership accomplishments of Joe’s kids and grandchildren.  Joseph Kennedy  created a family of leaders.

How we act and make leadership happen can clearly impact our families in a meaningful way.  Both John Adams and his son became Presidents of the United States. Prescott Bush was a Senator and his son and grandson became U.S. Presidents with a second grandson running for President in 2016.   The automobile family of Ford has multiple generations of business leaders.  The Roosevelt family had two cousins who became presidents.   Many other examples exist.  Thus, we can work with our families to make leadership a guiding value.


May 1, 2015

Working professionals in the human services and education realms have committee their lives to helping others.   They have gone to school and received degrees in a special academic area tied too the service of others.   This is often designated as service leadership.  They live the social justice philosophy  daily. They are aware that they will often have to work for organizations that receive their financial support from public  or governmental sources.  Many people have physical and mental problems that need support from these health and education supporting professionals.   Children need to be educated.   Teaching is not an alternative form of service for people who cannot get jobs elsewhere.  Parents may need day care from professionally trained individuals so they can support their families.  Many people have low incomes or no income which leads to poverty and a low quality of life.  People with disabilities need help too maintain themselves and remain in their home communities.  Wounded veterans who fought for our country and were then forgotten struggle.  The expectation of many of our elected officials is that the private sector or local contributors will help all these people.   They do but it is not enough.  Government still has an important role to play. Government still seems to not only blame the victim but also their helpers.

Our politicians have helped our people until recent years.    Presidents Kennedy and Johnson led the way. Many programs were created from the 1960s until the beginning of this new century.  President Obama pushed health reform to help millions of uninsured people.  Many of our leaders historically fought to help our American people. But some thingshave happened. Our elected officials have been bought by special interest groups.  Elections are more about money than people issues.  Our social justice fabric has frayed.  Corruption seems to have increased on both   sides of the political aisle.  Truth is not a governing principle anymore. Monies in our governmental coffers has been spent on many frivolous projects.  Our leadership has deteriorated.  Our country has moved dangerously to the right.  Money or lack of it rules over many social issues.   Retirees pensions are in danger. Governments in many states are cutting or elimination educational programs that help our needy neighbors.  We have voted for change that honors the rich, companies and international conglomerates over people, shrinking the middle class, and turning us back to a way of life that diminishes our people and our society.

We need leaders who will fight for the people. We nee to make social justice a reality again if we are to survive as a strong and independent nation.



March 31, 2015

I think it is interesting to look back and to study the history of the United States.  Although not everyone agreed that the colonies should separate from England.  Yet, there came a time when men of the colonies fought a war for independence.  Although we fought this war even though there were many who could agree on what this newly independent country would look like.  Our political leaders did agree on creating a democracy.   They did not all agree on whether the country would have a strong central government or a government in which states rights would predominate.   Our leaders were strong and remained gentleman even when we did not agree on all the particulars.  We still talk about our founding fathers as leaders—George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and so many others.  We still study these leaders’ lives today.  The 19th century brought interesting changes although we still study Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and others as both heroes and great leaders.    Congress even then did not always agree with the President although there were clearly leaders among our Congress including Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and others.   With the Industrial Revolution, new leaders arose from the developing railroads, oil , and other industries.

During the 20th century, our concept of leadership seemed to shift from the governmental sector to the business sector.  Organizations seemed to influence public policy more and more.  Lobbying became more prevalent in the second half of the last century to a point where we lost faith in our governmental leaders who only seemed to support the lobbyists and their companies the lobbyists represented. That is not to imply that some individuals were able to rise above the new political influencers.  Theodore Roosevelt, Woodfrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson Tip O’Neill, and Martin Luther King come to mind. It seems today that respect for our presidents has declined.  It seems that lobbyist speak for our industries, Congress follows because of substantial financial  contributions, and the public loses.  Speaking of being caught between a rock and two hard places, an elected official is caught between the people who voted, lobbyists, and the agenda of his or her party.  Change is necessary.   Congressional gridlock must end.  I often wonder where have all the governmental leaders gone.


February 26, 2015

In my post for September 2009, I introduced my concept of ecological leadership.  “Ecological leaders are committed to the development of their personal talents, leadership skills and competencies throughout their professional careers while at the same time being committed to the appropriate applications of their skills in their communities’ changing {health} and health care priorities.” All leadership takes place within the context of a community or organization.  The community or organization is affected by culture, values, and of course the relationship between individuals.  A given leader seems to function effectively and efficiently in some environments and not in others. An organization reaches out through its Board of Directors to search for the kind of leader that will address its organization’s  challenges in the most effective manner.   The leader’s style, bag of leadership tricks, methods of leadership practices. ability to address problems relative to the organization’s values, and the ability to change the culture to make it more responsive to the needs of the organization will all be needed for ecological change at the system’s level.  The secret to effective leadership at the community level requires skills in relationship building and collaboration through trust.  The above discussion is evidence of the importance of the space and culture factors in ecological leadership.

Time is also important.  What has happened historically in an organization or community provides the foundation for understanding today’s challenges. Solutions to challenges take place today and may already be obsolete if new challenges have happened during the problem-solving or decision-making phase.  Events external to a given organization or community may impact possible methods and techniques that address various challenges.  A challenge in one section of an organization or community can affect other parts of the organization or community.  Einstein argued that the time factor is complex and does not occur in a simple linear approach.  Time needs to be considered in the ecological model that is being presented.  One leader’s approach to time may well differ from another leader’s approach.  Please think of these concepts and follow me as we take a journey(another ecological concept) to explore ecological leadership and its relationship to other theories and models of  leadership.