Thursday, July 21, 2005

Leading With Authority

From Ronald Heifetz book Leadership Without Easy Answers:

Authority constrains leadership because in times of distress people expect too much. They form inappropriate dependencies that isolate their authorities behind a mask of knowing. And then everyone rationalizes the dependency. As some senators put it during the Vietnam era, democracy is awkward in an age of crisis. And in our itme of global change, everything ends up feeling like a crisis, even when it is not. As a result, doubt, the exchange of ideas, weighing contrary values, collaborative work, the testing of vision against competing views, changing one's mind, seem like unaffordable luxuries. Raise hard questions and one risks getting cut down, even if the questions are important for moving forward on the problem. Thus, the need for leadership from people in authority becomes ever more critical during periods of disequilibrium, when people's urgency for answers increases. Yet that role is played badly if authorities reinforce dependency and delude themselves into thinking that they have to have the answers when they do not. Feeling pressured to know, they will surely come up with an answer, even if poorly tested, misleading, and wrong. (p. 180)

I so wish I had been up on my reading for school a week ago.