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Leadership Bs Debate

Essay by   •  April 23, 2019  •  Book/Movie Report  •  2,150 Words (9 Pages)  •  45 Views

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  1. According to Pfeffer, what model/framework should be challenged? Why?

Ultimately, Jeffrey Pfeffer challenges the overall model and framework of leadership. For years, we have always believed leaders who follow the prescription of being a good leader will be successful. However, Pfeffer argues that doing the opposite of what the leadership industry tells us to do will produce even better outcomes. Early in the book he states, “the qualities we select for and reward in most workplaces are precisely the ones that are unlikely to produce leaders who are good for employees or for long-term organizational performance.” Traditionally, companies have selected their leaders based strictly on past performance rather than future potential. Pfeffer talks about how leadership has no barriers to entry and that “the relationship between scientific rigor and success in the leadership industry is somewhere between small and negative.”

As humans, we are consumed with our own individual success and will do anything it takes to continue moving up the ladder. The best leaders understand that there is a significant difference between what’s good for themselves and what’s good for the people they lead. Throughout the book, Pfeffer talks about the failures of our modern-day leaders. Instead of showing qualities like honesty, humility, and authenticity; we instead are left with leaders who show selfishness and greed. Both society and our organizations deserve better from today’s so-called leaders and it falls on the next generation to redefine what it means to lead. 

  1. What do you think are the three most significant biases that impact the society’s evaluation of who is or is not a good leader (you can use Pfeffer’s biases or come up with your own examples)? If possible, try to come up with your own examples of these biases from your life or career (if discussing a specific situation, please change names and details to preserve privacy). Pfeffer spends a lot of time discussing perceptions, as opposed to reality. Do you agree with the common statement that perception can be stronger than reality – in the context of leadership – why or why not?

In my opinion, I believe confirmation bias, negativity bias, and beauty bias are the three most significant biases that impact our evaluation of who is or who is not a good leader. Our unconscious biases cloud our thoughts and ultimately cause us to make inferences and decisions on people that aren’t fair.

Confirmation bias is when we make a judgement about a person and subconsciously look for evidence to back it up. As Pfeffer states in the book, “if you project confidence and claim competence with enough conviction to be credible, observers will tend to assimilate any information about you in ways consistent with the idea that you know what you are doing and are deserving of a position of leadership.” Once people form an impression on someone, they only see what they want to see moving forward. When I was playing football at the University of Louisville, we had a coaching change my last season. When the new coach was hired, there were many players on the team with reservations given the coach’s background. Not including myself, I know that many of my teammates made the unfair assumption that he would not be as good as our previous coach and they continually searched for evidence to back it up. As a result, a majority of our team spent more time trying to support their position rather than keep an open mind. We lost more games that year than we expected and I believe the confirmation bias on our team played a huge role.

Negativity bias is undoubtedly one of the most significant since we tend to remember the bad things people have done rather than the good. As I’m sure everyone in the class can relate, we’ve all had to deal with past relationships. When I reflect on one of mine, it is much more difficult for me to remember the positive things they did when I become hyper-focused on the negative things that ended the relationship. We can spend years with certain people and then allow one small event to bring everything to a halt. This obviously works the same way in a professional environment – If our boss mistreats us, we will remember it forever.

Beauty bias is one that I’ve read about in the past and I feel it plays a part in our evaluation of people, including leaders. This bias deals with the idea that the most attractive people will be the most successful. Personally, I know I’ve had preconceived notions on what I wanted my boss or leader to look like before I ever met them. Sometimes my expectations were confirmed and other times they were severely incorrect, however it shouldn’t matter. In order to overcome this bias, it’s important to remember that we can find success and happiness in many places besides beauty.

Personally, I agree that perception can be stronger than reality in the context of leadership. Ultimately, it’s more important for people to ‘think’ we are something than for them to know what our weaknesses may actually be in reality. I think a great example of this is President Trump. While he may not be the most intelligent nor qualified person to lead our country, he was able to earn the votes of millions of Americans and win the presidential election. However, it’s important to maintain that perception if you want to uphold the trust of the people. I think we can argue that he has sense lost that false reality which has severely damaged his image in the public eye.

  1. Gandhi wrote: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Joseph Campbell said something like: “We can’t change the system, but we can remain human in the system.” What skills and attributes does a leader need to develop or improve an organization that is steeped in negative politics? Is positive politics possible? Discuss three behaviors/examples that represent positive office politics.

Since people bring their own personal feelings and insecurities into their professional lives; we will always face the issue of politics in the workplace. So when an organization is suffocated by negative politics, it’s important that a leader develop certain skills and attributes to ensure things don’t get out of hand. First, I believe it’s important to have an open mind to new ideas. As the book points out, every organization is different and with that means a new style of leadership may be needed. The most effective leaders will be able to identify the problems and then find ways to corral the negative politics that are impacting the company. Another key skill for leaders to develop is consistency. For example, once leaders start working on something they should not be afraid of failure and never abandon it. Consistency shows that you are disciplined and that quality begins to rub off on others. Lastly, I believe one of the key skills we should improve is the ability to “act like a leader”. As we learned in the book Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader; we grow when we intentionally put ourselves in situations that are outside of our comfort zone. Taking it a step further, Pfeffer states that we should “act in a way that inspires confidence and garners support – even if the person doing the performance does not actually feel confident or powerful.” He calls this ‘inauthenticity’ and it is vitally important; especially in organizations where negative politics prevail. If we are to be successful as leaders, we need to make sure we can act in such a way that gets others to follow. If we constantly worry about being true to ourselves then we pretty much ensure that a good chunk of our people will choose to continue in their negative ways.

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