Department of Politics & International Relations
The Art and Science of Leadership: Politics, Theories, Research, and Practices
Poli – (Fall 2015)
Tuesday and Thursday 1:15 pm – 2:30 pm Mills 303
Professor: Dr. J. Timothy Cloyd
Office Raney Hall 104, Phone 450.3825 (o) 472-9843 (c)
Office Hours Posted And by Appointment
An essential element of leadership is political – in fact some leaders and scholars claim that the essential element of leadership is political. This is because at the core of effective leadership are questions about legitimacy, inspiring others to follow a vision, communicating in a powerful fashion, communal or shared ideals, and having the ability to move a collection of human beings into a cohesive identity group in which their actions are directed toward a common goal. Leadership is about how power is defined and about “who gets what and why.” Leadership can also be about transactions outside of a defined common good.
Is what is required to be an effective leader the same in all realms of life – business, nonprofits, the church, government, and private life? Are the requirements of effective leadership constant across historical periods, the same in every type of organization, the same in the context of all environments or the same in every culture?
Reflections about what is required for a person to be a leader are ancient. Today, scores of academic studies have drawn conclusions, often conflicting, about what makes a person a potential leader or what is required for a person to successfully lead. There are theories based on traits of leadership that seem to be natural attributes, models based on competencies and skills that may be learned, frameworks that rely on intelligence to predict who will be an effective leader, studies that show the value or liability of experience in making for an effective leader, and extensive research on the conditions that produce a leader.
Perhaps no one of these studies has it right and so perhaps the advice of leadership scholars is simply a way to make people who find themselves in leadership roles feel safer. We will see how some leadership coaches counsel leaders to be Authentic, to develop Emotional Intelligence, and to show empathy to get the organization or team to buy into a vision to follow and to be more productive. Other scholars and leaders dismiss such advice. They say that in the context of difficult choices, disruptive changes, and high expectations leaders must project strength, authority, and perhaps wear a mask of command. We know that all leaders live in a world that is accelerating with continuous change and lead in an environment that is complex, uncertain, ambiguous, unpredictable, and increasingly global.
Thus as a leader in whatever realm of life you are in, there may be no book of pre-set answers, no recipes, no guidebooks. Certain ways in which one approaches the world and responds to stress, problems, crisis, rejection, failure or defeat may expose a person’s potential to lead. A leader may respond at certain points brilliantly to such challenges and at other times not. Why? Is it like a battlefield, where leaders surprise even themselves, reacting to stress one way at one time and at another time reacting in a completely different way?
In reality we may find that people learn to be leaders by leading. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a famous article showing that there are no reliable indicators to predict which players drafted as quarterbacks will make it as NFL quarterbacks. Perhaps the same holds true for leaders.
In this course, beginning with some classic studies, we will examine theories, models, frameworks, and qualities that have been advanced as showing us how leaders should lead and what makes for an effective leader. We will examine the notion of the ideal leader, the moral leader, and the dynamic relationship between leaders and followers. We will also examine the idea that no study and theory on this topic may hold the truth or at least the whole truth. You will be expected to learn about these various approaches, analyze them, write about them, come to conclusions about them, and then you will be asked to articulate what you think defines an effective leader. This of course requires us to come to terms with what we mean by “effective.”
We will also engage in a series of exercises and hands-on experiences that will help you reflect on your own leadership style, potential, and aspiration. Leaders are also followers!
There are thousands of quotes about what it means to lead or about leadership. Usually such quotes reveal an underlying set of values or assumptions. Here is a sample set to get you thinking: Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “A genuine leader is not a seeker of consensus, but a molder of consensus.” Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Peter Drucker said, “Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked, it is defined by results not attributes.” Ronald Regan said, “If you cannot make them see the light, make them feel the heat.” Nelson Mandela said, “Lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory. Leaders must take the front line when there is danger and in hard times because then people will respect their leadership.”
Finally, it is dangerous to lead. Consider the leadership meaning of this passage: “Jesus stood in the Temple before the Pharisees on the Sabbath and asked ‘is it lawful to do good or harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” Then Jesus said to the man ‘stretch out your hand’ and it was restored. But the Pharisees were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.”
One of these quotes may strike a cord with you. The reality is if you step forward to lead it is dangerous – because of the unpredictable, because you work with other human beings, and because it can easily corrupt you. Some people glamorize being a leader as exciting where the leader is highly compensated or is powerful and is able to inspire people to follow in good times and in bad, but are these reasons to become a leader? More often leaders find that money, prestige, power and “respect” are empty and not worth the sacrifices a leader must make. “All earthly glory is fading.”
If you are called to lead it must be for a higher purpose. (Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky, “A Survival Guide for Leaders” in On Change Management. Harvard Business Review Press, 2011.). It must be for something that gives you a deep sense of meaning or that you see as part of fulfilling a deeply held passion such as changing the world for the better in some specific way.
All leaders make mistakes – perhaps this arises from a flawed strategy, tunnel vision, a bad decision, a lapse in judgment, a misstep out of exhaustion or some character defect. Leaders are human. Leaders are often required to challenge people to reach for new horizons outside of old comfort zones, to advocate change in ways that require people to give up something they hold dear, or to reallocate resources in ways that threaten people’s security. Such challenges test leaders.
You will have an opportunity in this course to critically analyze how particular leaders led in the context of adversity. The traits that make for a good leader in one context may make him/her ill suited as a leader in another type of environment. Do you aspire to be a leader? Why? To what end? Perhaps you do not want to be a leader, but being informed as a citizen requires us to learn how leaders and leadership works.