Authentic Leadership

by Levy Rivers - Date: 2007-02-03 - Word Count: 2156 Share This!

During the 1990s, CEOs of most American companies focused on the bottom line with the single goal of creating shareholder wealth. The idea was for CEOs to look tough, act tough, and talk tough. Many of them would not have been caught dead discussing soft stuff like ethics, values, openness, or corporate responsibilities to customers, employees, and host communities, especially to a community of "morally failed addicts". When the Enron/Andersen scandal broke, followed by a tidal wave of revelations of similar corporate crimes, the initial reactions among American business leaders ranged from deafening silence to "it's just a few bad apples." Not many spoke out in condemnation, and even fewer suggested the need for better executive behavior. Fewer still discuss the enter tensions they felt because of the many personal tension of the role.

There is something refreshingly old-fashioned, therefore, about Bill George's Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value (Jossey-Bass, 2003). During the 10 years George was CEO of the medical technology company Medtronic Inc., he practiced a philosophy in which "shareholders come third" - the belief that investors can benefit only as the result of efforts of empowered employees who effectively serve customers. To that end, George promulgated such business values as producing top-quality products, treating employees with respect, and acting with integrity in dealing with all his company's stakeholders. The bottom line: Medtronic created $60 billion in value on his watch, and investors saw shares appreciate at a compound rate of 32 percent a year.

He writes that the secret to his stewardship was the practice of "authentic leadership," the traditional approach to running companies that had been the hallmark of such now nearly forgotten CEO s as Max DePree (Herman Miller), Jim Burke (Johnson & Johnson), David Packard (Hewlett-Packard), Ken Dayton (Dayton Hudson), and J. Irwin Miller (Cummins Engine). These are leaders, in George's words, who were "committed to stewardship of their assets and to making a difference in the lives of the people they serve," leaders who had "a deep sense of purpose" and who recognized "the importance of their service to society."

So here I am standing in the shadow of such great men but wanting to use the same title for my own sense of leadership. The first step is to describe the community for which I am standing for as the CEO of Changed Life Ltd. They are addicts of all stripes. So here is some of the features of their lives that I am offering to be in service.

After describing some of the twist and turns of their life I will return to how authenticity is the key for my worthiness to serve.

The Life of an Addict.

Despite their situation addicts use two tactics to survive: the obsession and the alienated lifestyle.

Tactic one: The obsession-induced altered-state-of-consciousness.

One of the great blessings of being consumed as an addict is that pretty much everything can be interesting. Under the influence of their addiction, an addict can spend hours doing their "thing" regardless of its social significance wither its playing "War Craft", "shopping", watching grass grow or just being in a corner. The experience of hustling the next deal is heightened, jokes are funnier, life is more vibrant. And under hallucinogenic drugs, the user is witness to such marvels as the color of music or the sounds of colors.

There are practical benefits of being addicted. Those who are homeless turn, for instance, to stimulants to keep awake: falling asleep often means getting robbed. At a deeper psychological level, David Lensen (1999) reports research that the drug's appeal for an addicted construction worker is that it inspires the worker to find interest in a job that has, while sober, no personal meaning. Without the drug, the worker would be overwhelmed with boredom and quit.

Tactic Two: The alienated lifestyle

The second tactic is the lifestyle. For non-addicts, one of the more baffling dynamics of addiction is the addict's apparent need to live life at the level of a soap-opera. In my Addicts Prayer, I mentioned the tensions and the walls of separation. "We made mountains out of molehills," says Narcotics Anonymous (1982, p. 93). Addicts know how to increase intensity of their lives. Relationships are often rancorous facts, thoughts of revenge rival any Hollywood movie, are embellished to make life-stories more interesting. Even a simple flat tire is used by the addict as proof that God, Himself, has singled out the addict for punishment.

The Centering Moment

What is the nature of obsession/alienation for this community and how does it effect my basic stand as an authentic leader, which I claimed earlier was so important? An addict's obsession/alienation is understood as the process whereby they struggle with and against being divorced or isolated so as to conform to the society around them.

The common view of a CEO is that it is limited to one of the following interpretations:

The first views strategy purely as insight into industry dynamics and customer needs, evaluated on the basis of novelty, distinctiveness, analytical depth, or intellectual elegance - rather than on results achieved, lives changed. The second considers strategy as the long view, a step-by-step plan toward a comprehensive vision of a future 15 to 25 years distant - ignoring the reality that timing matters. The third views strategy solely as the province of the CEO and the board of directors, which leaves others in the organization to address the grubby details of execution - and fails to mobilize the people who are best equipped to understand emerging opportunities. The fourth misconception positions strategy as the first and most important driver of decisions about organization and operations - instead of basing strategy on the company's core strengths and competencies.

Nowhere does the CEO confront the social meaning of their vision and mission to change lives. Changing lives is left for religious efforts of social workers and others that have no requirement to produce a profit. This is where I am in tune with the addict - my role is also based on alienation in order to be authentic.

In theological terms alienation is represent as an imperfection in history. It is overcome only in that moment when humanity and God are one. My authenticity is summed up in the view on the ends-of-our-work depending on our view of the end of history. The following stand is based in the five categories of H. Richard Niebuhr's classic "Christ and Culture", are to some people particular to Christianity but others from other faiths or no particular faith hopefully can gain from these descriptions.

1. For the exclusive Christian history is the story of a rising church or Christian culture and a dying pagan civilization.

2. For the cultural Christian, it is the story of the spirit's encounter with nature.

3. For the synthesist, it is a period of preparation under law, reason, gospel, and church for an ultimate communion of the soul with God.

4. For the dualist, history is the time of struggle between faith and unbelief, a period between the giving of the promise of life and its fulfillment.

5. For the conversionist history is the story of God's mighty deeds and of man's responses to them. He lives some what less "between the times" and somewhat more in the divine "Now" than do my various brothers listed above. Eternity to the conversionist, like me, focuses less on the action of God before time and less the life with God after time and more on the presence of God in time. Hence the conversionist is less concerned with conservation of what has been given in creation, less with preparation for what will be given in a final redemption, than with the divine possibility of a present renewal.

Even to use any view of Christ as justification for addiction treatment requires precise articulation. As stated above, I consider my view most closely defined by the conversionist. Given this confession, I still have to accept being blamed by some antagonists as inducing men to rely on the grace of God instead of summoning them to human achievement. I stand on, we are responsible, but we do not control.

Others will claim to be baffled by what seems like contempt for present existence with its great concern for existing men, because we are not frighten by the prospect of doom on all man's works, because we are not despairing but confident.

Then there is the recurring cultural indictment of intolerance, because our speech invites the indignation in its claims of separation from the communion of mankind and in our claims to the exclusive possession of divine knowledge, and our supposed disdaining of every other form of worship except our own as impious and idolatrous. What is often meant is that all claims of religious groups but especially all consideration of the claims of Christ and God should be banished from the spheres where other "gods", called "values" reign.

Christian exaltation of the lowly offends aristocrats and Nietzcheans in one way, champions of the proletariat and capitalist in another. The unavailability of Christ's wisdom to the wise and prudent, its attainability by the simple and by babes, bewilder both business and the philosophical leaders of culture or excite their scorn. We are constantly taking hits from all sides and even within the values dialogue.

In general, one encounters two difficulties to understanding how rigorous to hold the authority of an epistemological source, as I hold Jesus Christ.

1. The impossibility of stating adequately by means of concepts and propositions a principle which presents itself in the form of a person: word made flesh.

2. The impossibility of saying anything about this person which is not also relative to the particular standpoint in church, history, and culture of the one undertakes to describe him.

Either one accepts relativity (material realty) or the method of Biblical positivism, pointing to the New Testament and forgoing all interpretation. I admit my tendencies towards the relative. With the ongoing tragedy of having to accept the content of mystery, which I have, that sounds to the positivist as though, I am siding with relativity. Then those to focus on the material see my statements as opiates used head fake the "unlearned".

I instead focus on what Christ practiced and taught: Love. His was double love, of the neighbor as well as of God, and that His ethics was two foci, "God, the Father, and the infinite value of the human soul. The double commandment, whether originally stated or merely confirmed by Jesus, by no means places God and neighbor on a level, as through complete devolution were due to each. The neighbor is put on the same level of value that the self occupies, the struggle is here. The upside is to strive to moves pass 'love thy neighbor as thy self" to "love one another as I have loved you."

The end product for Jesus' was the Kingdom there his "theory of ethics must come under the conception of replenishment in preparation." Replenishment is moral renewal in the prospect of the accomplishment of universal perfection, the open question does it happen inside or outside of time, but what is sure is its com(ing).

For some corporate "voice" or "governance" is essentially Godless in the purely secular sense, as having neither positive nor negative relation to God or Jesus Christ; for others it is Godless in the negative sense, as being anti-God or idolatrous; for others it seems solidly based on a natural, rational knowledge of God, or His law. However, in the language of organizational behavior one's ultimate beliefs rarely come in the vision or mission statement document. It is also true that my personal demographic, educational and other intrinsic predilections (21st Century) is so inextricably intertwined in how I say what I say about Christ. Hence both explorations suffer: analysis of culture and Christ suffer my lens depiction.

The truth of the space just defined is its deeply mystical, calculating and tactical. It is nearly theological as it generates images of genesis and grace: "authentic leadership". I believe that what was said of power and strategy could arguably fit Howard Thurman's meditation "Our Minor Absolutes"--the tension of processes against individuals, daring to make a difference.

It is very hard for us to be in Thy presence. There are so many minor absolutes to which we give our strength and our energies that we are embarrassed before Thee….We seek forgiveness, but again and again as we wait in the silence, we do not quite know for what. Perhaps what we really seek is an awareness of sin and failure, shortcomings. Thus we spread these out before Thee. Thy knowest. We would be better than we are, but as we wait in Thy presence we are not sure that we want to be better than we are…..If under the aegis of Thy spirit our lives were changed, we are afraid...of what might become of us. Work over us, knead us, do to us what our spirits require, not that we may be better than we are…but that we may more deeply desire to be better than we are…

Related Tags: leadership, business, lifestyle, christianity, authentic, business ethics, addictio, stewardship, obsession

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