“Power is what pride really enjoys: there is nothing makes a man feel so superior to others as being able to move them about like toy soldiers.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Reveln.com, my “freedom” website, launched this week. At the same time, I came across a familiar author from my college days, C.S. Lewis. I recall reveling in the richly written fiction of the Screwtape Letters, the Narnia fantasy series and other Lewis tales and illustrations of power, intrigue, and status seeking.
Note: This post was originally posted in 2009 and updated in 2013 with new references.
Status can feel good. Status is enticing– having staff, followers, peeps, tribes, and office perks feels great. Your hard work pays off in having the perks of an office with a view, or enjoying the spacious “power” of the corner suite. I remember luxuriating in travel to the latest conference to listen to great thoughts and deeds as well as to mix and mingle among the flush of the newest of the new. Networking with others, including leaders with status, is a heady experience. “I can get used to THIS!” Some, in leader roles, do all too well.
Yet status can be an illusion, a veneer, fleeting, a “mask.” Two education-based examples: one about spine and integrity of a student defined by the impassioned speech of Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman (PG-13 language) to the “authority” leader:
A second, different reminder is delivered by a little known video featuring the idealism and promise of a liberal arts college education, this one at Clemson:
Both remind us of the basic need to renew our skills in staying grounded in respecting others, rooting out our tendencies toward paternalism often tied to power and status. Building sustainable, personal integrity helps create organizational spine that integrates, is the glue, for positive leadership at all levels of an organization. Power and corruption quotes are not included. You probably already know them.
Finding Forrester, is a movie with a similar point on power rule. It features the attractive Sean Connery taking on the establishment with his own fame through his writing power. Dualing authority figures argue over what is “right action” (see the last post.) This makes for a good movie, and good workplace drama. Sean Connery’s character is the brilliant recluse, who models the Al Pacino role in a very similar way. Let me know if you hear applause in this version of right meets might.
Below is a list of signs of organization leadership that form spine and integrity. I’ve observed these over the years. They include current links to specific examples from the Best of 2009 Leadership Blogs nominees:
- Leaders at the top respect and use each other’s unique strengths within the top leadership team, and represent this to those who report to them. Top leaders choose to speak well of each other, they choose to dispel unproductive turf competition, and model a positive “vibe” at the top.
- Leaders within groups and teams at all levels find ways to “gel” with each other to get things done across functions. They model open communication and healthy conflict management.
- Leaders make the invisible visible, and disrupt silence and “withholding” with smart questions.
- Good answers to smart questions by leaders, at all levels, create the “juice” of emotionally intelligent relationships, which empowers innovation, improves access to vision at all levels, and increases productive risk-taking, competitive creativity, and fun.
- Fun? Yes! Here’s an example of risk-taking, being the “first follower” with a reluctant follower. Kudos to Thriller and M. Jackson fans. (2013 update: The first follower and dance theme continue here with a classic and sci-fi modern video examples.)
- Layers or boundaries are permeable. The senior leadership “bubble” (isolation) is held in check by developed, on-going, multi-layer communication and robust relationships, beyond a simple breakfast or lunch meeting with the big boss. Authentic connection to talent is cultivated, not just scheduled for an hour or two on an e-calendar. Coaching can help.
- Workloads are manageable. Work/life balance is in tune with productive competition. There’s still room for fun, playful, creative thought.
- Data flows. It is not hoarded or “scrubbed” at the top. Transparency is skewed toward trusting staff as adults with difficult information and access, rather than parental controls of what “can be handled.” This is the greatest potential of Business Intelligence.
- Emotional displays, possibly tied to tenacious baggage, are learning points and are allowed to dissipate, with patience, rather than being used for gossip fodder.
Is this a pipe-dream? What does your workplace culture convey”? How do the questions on your last culture – climate survey play? Are the questions consistent with a full expression of your organization’s espoused values?
The highest proof of virtue is to possess boundless power without abusing it. ~ Lord Macaulay
Your comments and sharing of nuggets from my posts enrich the learning and show me what posts you find useful. Thanks for visiting! ~ Deb
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.