Archive for the ‘Leadership Through Organizations’ Category

Much speculation again about your medical leave of absence. Apple’s stock prices were down 7 to 8% in Europe today. Tomorrow Apple is reporting financials. I suspect it will be very good news.

Someone asked me recently if I thought you were a good leader. I had no good answer. I have never worked with you nor do I even know you. Yet I do know of you.

Are you visionary and you have some pretty high standards of what you consider excellence. You are focused and can be fairly intense from what I understand. You are a leader to be sure. I say this not because of the position you hold in your company or even the market position of your company. No. Rather you are a leader, like the rest of us who have a sense of responsibility and struggle with balancing that in a paradoxical world. You understand profit, but don’t seem to be driven by it – at least not as much as some of those who follow you. You seem more interested in artistic expression and creativity than in earning a buck, but you recognize that earning a buck and protecting your investment is vital.

I can’t even pretend to know all the conflicting issues you face each and every day. I can only second guess you and play the arm-chair quarterback.

Steve, for my dollar, you are not Apple and Apple is not Steve Jobs. Apple is a part of who you are and clearly a product of your influence. You gave it a rebirth – a second chance. You made some very hard decisions and many people were unhappy. Throughout your time you have been true to your vision if not always communicative about what that looked like. But I do understand that. Sometimes the vision is fully developed and we only know what it isn’t. Vision is often an unfolding – a revelation that is built on discovery. I also get that you might have clearly held a vision that has not change or evolved. But one that was so far forward that it was out of the frame for the rest of us – out of our zone of proximal learning – that you may have incredible patience as the vision unfolds for the us.

I may not always agree with all that you say or do, but seriously – thank you for your vision and the products that have come from it (oh, and yes, for nurturing Pixar).

So Steve, whether you return to Apple or not, whether you live to be 56 or 106, it is my prayer that during your current medical leave of absence that you will take care of yourself and your family. Take time to fully heal your inner man. May you know and experience, not only during this absence, but throughout the reminder of your days: peace, joy, and unconditional love.


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Taking a quick look at Wikipedia:  Policy is NOT law, but gives direction to what laws might be necessary to fulfill policy.  Policy by default orients to “What”
  • It is our policy to be transparent.
  • It is our policy to integrate geo-dispursed knowledge contributors
  • It is our policy to have accessible and affordable health care for every citizen
Policy also answers the “why”
  • It is our policy to be transparent because we want to build trust with our stakeholders.
  • It is our policy to integrate geo-dispursed knowledge contributors because we can access the best and brightest without having to relocate them (etc)
  • It is our policy to have accessible and affordable health care for every citizen because a healthy workforce produces more, is happier, etc…

A friend on Facebook posted:  “I see the need for [policies] for an organization, yet see that they also have a tendency to stifle growth.”

My reply:

A couple of thoughts: Policy should help people be aware of mission/purpose/priorities; provide balance and equity of scarce resources; clarify roles; AND improve creativity and flexibility. Policies are purposed to be limited in scope and time – are therefore change-able or can be eliminated when no longer necessary. Can we think of policies as an external expression of what we want to see internally? enforcement of policy can actually limit the intended purpose of the policy….another thought comes to mind: how we administer policy matters.  just a few thoughts.

Policy intersects with other leadership competencies in my program of study.
1a:  Our worldview and philosophies will feed what we (1b) value (the policies we want to create) and how we (1b) believe we should administer policy (the rules we make).  Further our worldview influences what we believe the capacity of learning and change is of those we influence (1c).  We must communicate (2a) policy.  Even without a specific Mentor/coaching policy, mentoring and coaching (2b) become part of the informal adoption or resistance of any policy.  The way an individual or community perceives its responsibility (2c) influences the creation and implementation of policy.  (An example is Apple Inc.  They have environmental policies and social responsibility policies which have in part spawned the Supplier code of conduct and audit process.)  http://www.apple.com/supplierresponsibility/

In the corporate world, policy and resource allocation, development (human and/or financial) (3a) is probably the most visible connection to policy.  Likewise when new policies are at times instituted to change Organizational behavior or culture (3b).  Even not when purposed to this regard, successful implementation often means the implementation of change processes (3d) and evaluation and assessment of said processes (3e).

The “why” of the policy also infers that there is a problem of some sort.  The answer to “why” is through research (4a/b/c).   My reading of Senge, Wheatley, Argis, and others about complex adaptive systems suggest that we may achieve our stated goals (i.e. intended consequences) but that there are always unintended consequences.  We may have to go back and re-evaluate the policy and/or its implementation.  This too is research. (that is the policy process is purposed to be used as “research”).

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Whose responsible for what?  and Why?

I can’t seem to shake this question.  As I begin reading “Responsibility in Context” a “gut level” take is that because we are social we have a responsibility one for another.  I don’t yet see where this is a foundation of society – good or bad.

A given person’s worldview would seem to dictate what they considered essential and valuable in context of their social environment.  Worldviews could hardly be considered infallible.  One may have a worldview of “top down”, where the most powerful “hero” is the leader.  This person may be able to exert the most force to get people to do what they want.  In their worldview, it may be that they believe they have the best idea of what their subjects need.  But if you depart from their prescribed order, you may be imprisoned, tortured, or killed.

Is the leader responsible for his/her followers?  What role to the followers play?  Again, these terms are defined by worldview.  Lets move away from “leader/follower” for a moment.  In more traditional corporate responsibility, we engage the corporate body in responsibility to the social/societal context in which it operates and functions.

Does responsibility rests in those with power and influence?  Or does responsibility rest with the individual regardless of power and influence?  Do we sue the automaker for accidents due to faulty manufacturing?  Does it make a difference if there was an unknown defect? or deliberate cover up?  Do we sue the automaker when we have an accident, because they built a car that goes faster than the legal limit?  we can apply these questions to physicians, corporations, individuals, governments, and so forth.  Who is responsible for what? and why?  What is the responsibility of a company to its employees?  the President to the citizens?  A nation to the world?  Can we question all basis of action? What is “good” or “bad”?  Who defines these?  And perhaps it is important to know how they come to be defined.

Across my computer screen this week, I have read about “selfishness”.  What is it?  Is it a virtue?  Does it make the world go ’round in peace and harmony?  There seem to be two definitions of “selfishness”.

The first and most common, seems to have come into existence between 1628 and 1640.  It centers around self-interest without regard for others.  Richard Dawkins is quoted as saying “Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs.” [Richard Dawkins, “The Selfish Gene,” 1976].

The second declares “selfishness” a virtue.  Promoted widely by Ayn Rand, this type of selfishness has the best interest of self and others.  It is opposed to altruism (as self-sacrifice) towards others.  Where she views altruism as asking “Who benefits?” And making the morality of “right” being self-sacrifice of the giver.

All of this is based in her ideas of “objectivism” and reason.  This type of selfishness rejects the satisfaction of whims because they may actually be harmful to one’s self or others.  It rejects altruism because, to be morally “good”, one must harm themselves.  Indeed, one of Rand’s critisims of religion seems to be around the teachings of “altruism”, as giving to the hurt of one’s self.

My own interpretation of the teachings of Jesus, is that this type of altruism is not what he had in mind.  (Matthew 25 – parable of the 10 virgins; Matthew 22:39/ Mark 12:31/ Romans 13:8-10/ Galatians 5:14/ James 2:8 – love your neighbor as yourself).

I have not read Rand’s book.  I have only read through the links below.   There is much to appreciate about her approach. It seems that the main point is that every individual human being has objective needs.  The selfish human will reason that it is in their best (moral good) to take care of their “self” and the “self” of others.  In this I wonder how far off “selfishness” is from “Agape”.  I am still thinking.  Clearly, however, “reason” only goes so far.  There are so many interpretations of what is right and reasonable.

In her own life, she rejected all forms of organized religion and faith as “antithetical to reason”.  Her ideals influenced Alan Greenspan. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Greenspan) among others.  Her ideals are embedded in the Republic Party of the United States.

Clearly in our current society there is a gap and breakdown of this type of “selfishness”.  Our economic collapse, both of 1929 and in the 2000s, show us that the typical “selfishness” is still at play.  Another breakdown is just how far we extend the ideal of Rand’s “Selfishness”, just as there is a break down in “Agape”.  Does Rand’s selfisishness extend to one’s family? Community?  Nation?  Those who hate and abuse one’s self?  who judges or arbitrates?

The question then becomes how do we balance society?  Are we living in an interconnected web of life? What is our responsibility towards others who view their responsibility differently?  Is the question one of selfishness? or is it possible that we might better be looking at another term?  I would suggest “Agape”.  Next, I would suggest that “Abuse” is the opposite of “Agape”.  Our responsibility is to “Agape” ourselves AND others – not to abuse ourselves or others.

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Nature II:  Telematic Culture and Artificial Life

Roy Ascott

Convergence 1995; 1; 23

terms and definitions:

  • telematic(s):  computer-mediated communications networking which is the result of the convergence of telecommunications and data processing systems. (note 1 p 29)
  • cybernetics: “the study of control and communication in living and artificial systems” (p 25)
  • 2nd order cybernetics:  “included the observer of a system as part of the system.” (p 25)
  • connectionism (in art); and connectivist in science
  • Consciousness:  our sense of presence in the world and our relationship to reality.

Ascott essentially starts out with exploring the essence of nature: as metaphor and as interpreted reality – that whatever nature is, “it is the first virtual reality in which the pure data of an undifferentiated wholeness is programmed, shaped and categorised according to our language, fears and desires.” (p 24)

Nature is a “virtual” reality for us humans, perhaps for no other reason than that we cannot fully experience because of who we are.  In the same way you are a virtual reality to me.  I can only experience what you do through story and metaphor as described above.

Nature II is not Nature, but a second order Nature.  According to Ascott an “emergent nature… a new creativity whose ‘engines of creation’ will embrace artificial life.” (p 24)  This nature is seen and interpreted through technology and any other observers.

Ascott recognizes that the observer brings with her all expectations, beliefs, paradigms, etc and that these influence observed reality.  That the observer is indeed part of the system and cannot be objectively separate from the observed.

And here is where my interest is piqued:  “Second-order cybernetics and Nature II share in what can be called the connectivist paradigm, which holds that everything is connected, everything interacts with and effects everything else.” (p 26).

Ascott ties the connectivist paradigm to “microstructures of cognition” (neural networks of the brain and the way in which we conduct parallel distributed processing).  By doing so he rejects the limited linear only processes (non-linear processing can include linear processes, but is not limited to such).

In looking for how Ascott defines “virtual reality” it is how we experience that which is external to ourselves.  When describing “telematic systems of global networking” he seems to slide back into traditional thought of “virtual reality”.   “… often without our knowledge or awareness of where we are being encountered or by whom, at which interface or communications node” we can be “encountered”.  While he puts this in the term “telematically”, we have been able to do this via the old technology of Guttenberg.  Without question our ability to be instantly available around the world is a much more recent experience.  Perhaps that is his purpose in describing art – as art has been around much longer.  Come to think of it as long as there has been a written form of communication we have had “virtual reality” which transcends time and space.

Ascott does acknowledge ancient forms of writing and information storage.  He is correct in that now we are able to access these and more via current digital technologies.

What does this mean to me?

For three years I worked full-time for a school of public health.  I would be considered a “virtual” employee, a telecommuter, remote worker.  I lived and worked from South Bend Indiana to a school in southern California.  My faculty, while mostly located at the school, were also distributed – around North America and as far away as Japan and Australia.  Likewise students were well dispersed, though most were located on campus.  I met both in real-time through VoIP and/or telephone; screen sharing technologies; instant messaging; and video conference tools.  I worked asynchronously through course management and social networking systems; email; voice messaging; Fax machines; and so on.

I have experienced real meetings in real time with others across the USA and Canada, and in: Australia; Kenya; Ethiopia; Rwanda; Cameroon; Malawi (text chat only); Austria; Germany; Japan; Mexico; China; Hong Kong, India; and the Philippines.  Add to that mix asynchronous methods and the list grows significantly.

I read paper based journals, books, and magazines.  I also rely on digital versions of journals, magazines, news, encyclopedias, etc.  I recognized years ago that personal memory and recall is not sufficient in the modern world.  In working with public health, nursing, and medical students it is clear that the load of information required to be proficient cannot be fully memorized.  Rather one must learn to be proficient in accessing information storage devices.  These devices are changing over time.  Clearly early storage mediums were charcoal and rock, giving way to ink forms and papyrus.  These intern gave way to other media forms.  Today we have digital forms – who knows what media we will use in the future.

I personally resist using the term “virtual” to describe real meetings.  I do recognize that many people use “virtual” to describe computer-mediated methods.  I do find however that many people view “virtual” workers as not real, or less than fully engaged employees.  As if working from a different location makes one less than complete.  My personal experience is that those who hold this view – even when they state this is a reality and “the future”, limit the contribution of remote knowledge contributors.  On the other hand I have had some experience where some were openly skeptical but open to the experience, finding new ways of leveraging technology to bridge distance, building relationships with people who could not have participated in any other practical “in person” manner.  This includes researchers in different cities, states, and/or countries, meeting both in real-time and asynchronously.  These experiences, move the mind from “virtual” to “real”.

Learning and human development has a basis of “openness”.  If one is not genuinely open to new possibilities and methods, learning and development is also limited.  Perhaps a better way to state it is that we are limited in our learning and development to the level (capacity) of which we are open.

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Have you ever thought, “what is leadership?”

I have. Often. My M.Ed is in Global Leadership and Administration. That program scratched an itch that I didn’t even know I had. But like a scab on a healing wound, the scratch is only intensifying.

I looked at a variety of programs: Organizational Psychology; Human and Organizational Systems; and the many varieties of Leadership (Organizational; Global; and Higher Education). The program I chose is just plain ol’ “Leadership”. I should add, quickly, that it is also the most customizable program at which I looked.

I discovered the program quite by accident. I was doing a google search on leadership and competencies. The Andrews’ program surface in the top 10. I looked over the page and realized I had met the program director. I called her daughter (who I also know through Adventist Virtual Learning Network) and asked her what she knew about the program. Anyhow, to make a long story shorter, met with a few of the faculty and was impressed, so I signed up.

I think one thing that “sold me” is that Shirley Freed, the program director, mentioned that leadership is about relationship and influence. The folder I received during our orientation week states “Leadership: A platform for service”.

When I look at any individual, I see the potential for a great leader. Admittedly, their actions sometimes bring me back to reality. But then, I too have that potential and my actions get in the way of “being” a leader and rising to my potential. Leadership starts with the self and extends outward: first to intimates and then to work and then to our communities.

Being a leader doesn’t suggest “greatness”; “power”; or “position”. Rather “being” suggest a method of living. Living as a “leader” suggests always seeking to know and understand one’s “self”; and seeking to know and understand others. “Being” a leader suggests being principled and disciplined; “being” a leader suggests being committed to truth that is bigger than personal perspective; being a leader suggests stewardship of life and everything in it.

We certainly see “leadership” styles. I see these as more “personality” traits than anything else. There is a larger reality – a larger truth: We are called to be more than simply who we are. We are called to grow and help others in their journey of growth.

Leadership as a platform for service isn’t automatically grandiose. Service is not being a “yes-man” to the wants of others. Service is committed to a bigger picture. Leadership isn’t simply about being in the service of profits; or environmental protection; or of universal health coverage. Leadership is in the service of life. This means that, people who are being leaders, wrestle with what is right or wrong; struggle with choices that are not clear cut; struggle with decisions that might not have been the best; struggle with helping others find their own calling. People who are being leaders are in the service of the big picture. If someone loses, everyone loses. People committed to being leaders seek NOT to win or defeat others.

When I think about leadership as “being” in this manner, the manner of serving humanity, in fact all of creation, there are precious few examples. Leadership in this method isn’t selfish, nor is it completely self-less. Leadership in this method considers it all. Being a leader in this way, there is a dance between love of self and love of others.

I am still thinking…

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