From the American Heritage Dictionary:
1. Fearful of losing what one has to another, especially someone's love or affection.
2. Resentful of another's success, advantages, and so forth.
3. Arising from feelings of envy, apprehension, or bitterness.
4. Intolerant of disloyalty.
As seen in the definition, this emotional trait is based on fear, resentment, envy, apprehension, bitterness and probably a host of other related emotions. What is it the produces jealousy? Is jealousy in humans the same as territoriality in lower mammals? Is jealousy an essential human emotion? Is jealousy some primeval characteristic evolved in all of us to protect that which belongs to us?
Certainly as I am exploring in the series of Anod novels, I do not believe it is essential. Furthermore, I strongly believe it is a destructive emotion. I can see no constructive value to jealousy. In fact, I see jealousy as very much a depleting emotion, draining away vital energy that could be focused on creative emotions.
So, how did we develop jealousy? I imagine some anthropologist can trace the origins back to a sense of self-protection, of defending the integrity of one's family unit, home, garden or hunting grounds. Perhaps, that is the origin. The real question is, why?
Jealousy certainly implies possession. We are protecting something we own or belongs to us. In modern times, I suppose since the Declaration of Independence and the definition of individual freedoms as well as the development of society as so deeply interdependent, the meaning of possession has diminished. Surely, by today's standards, we can possess land [although to Native American culture, possession of the land is like possessing the air]. We can possess pets, domesticated animals that become part of us. Can we possess other humans? Organized religion and the state have provided at least a tacit definition to the affirmative, in that there exists some legal or spiritual bond recognized by others as being valid. These so-called bonds are artificial, created by humans for some benefit. True enough, there is some benefit, but are those bonds really the controlling mechanism, and do they justify jealous behavior at protecting those bonds. If so, then one must ask whether the protection of those bonds are of sufficient importance to justify the destructive characteristics that are the manifestation of jealousy?
What if there was no jealousy?
An interesting question. Does one person stay with another because of a marriage license, or some civil or religious ceremony. Yes, I sure there are individuals who feel compelled and inextricably bound to another by that process. However, the fluidity of our culture and the soaring divorce rate suggests quite the opposite.
In trying to understand my feelings, some relevant observations can be made. First and foremost, I cannot see the irrevocability of some legal definition, any more than I can see any law as unchangeable. Depending upon your chosen religion, the marriage bond may be portrayed as being irrevocable. Logically, the bond at most must be seen as conditional. Some religions recognized the dissolution of that bond, while others do not. Thus, the conditionality diminishes the relevance of that bond. I might add as a further observation, those religions that establish the marriage bond as irrevocable do so via the use of fear rather than reason. Nonetheless, the bond between two people whether in marriage, friendship or some other means is in reality determined by the connection they have with each other – the affinity they share. This connection in my mind is far more powerful than any civil or religious force. Two people stay together because they want to, because they share many basic needs in common, and because other distracting forces are not as strong. If two people do not share that affinity equally, then I submit there is no force that will hold them together.
Perhaps jealousy is a force to bind. One person's jealously fends off any attempt to compromise a relationship. For example, jealousy might lead one mate to screen all mail, to search through all pockets, to examine clothing for details, to scrutinize credit card bills, or to interrogate their partner every time s/he is out of sight for more than a few minutes. Jealousy might also lead one to react with anger, resentment, fear or loathing when slivers of evidence might suggest any deviation. Degrees of jealousy range from withdrawal to murder, all in the name of protection a possession they never can possess.
It is not the physical the binds two people together, for the physical is transitory, temporal and superficial. Mental plays a part, but a relatively minor part. It is the emotional aspects of a relationship that seem to be most powerful, which is probably why jealousy seems so natural to some. It is how you feel about another person that holds you to that person. There must be a trust between two people. When that trust is broken, then the bonds that hold them together are broken. Likewise, jealousy is distrust in another form. Jealousy, or the need to possess, creates an atmosphere that is inherently distrustful. Once that distrust is allow to take root in an environment of perceived possession, the destructive nature of jealousy is near the surface and waiting to explode.
Jealousy is often manifest in the physical, largely because the physical is the only tangible element. Trying to be jealous of thoughts or emotion is virtually impossible, other than as some perception. I think you are thinking this or feeling this and therefore I am jealous. However, in the physical, there is perceived cause for reaction. I saw you talking to another woman. Here is the letter you wrote to this other woman. I found lipstick marks on your collar. Et cetera, et cetera…ad infinitum. Because the evidence is physical, the reactions are often physical and occasionally destructive, e.g., injury or murder.
The anthropologists would or could probably tell us that jealousy was an emotional and physical response – a survival instinct – that was manifest in the early human culture to protect the breeding potential of a male-female couple. Perhaps? Personally, I think it was more likely manifest in the genesis of modern religions the purpose of controlling human behavior and eliminating the bawdy, decadent and perhaps degenerate behavior of the pagan era. I could accept either or both, actually. Jealousy seems to be quite similar to other human responses like territoriality, nationalism, parochialism or rationale for conquest. Are those forces, if true, valid today? As we breakdown the barriers between societies, cultures and individuals, and humans are enormously more mobile in every respect, is this sense of territoriality really valid, i.e., I own/possess this person and no one will violate that possession? Interesting question. Is a marriage or even a pairing of two people possession? If so, is it normal and proper for anyone to react with vigor toward any threat to interfere with that possession? Somehow, if the genesis of jealousy is as described above or even remotely related to those sources functions, the emotion and response seem so archaic or even obsolete. As with all things human, there are no easy answers and maybe no answers, period.
So, what if there was no jealousy?
The answer would appear to rest in those emotions not involving or related to jealousy. Without jealousy, two people can develop those emotional bonds that are far more powerful than jealousy. Without jealousy, an atmosphere of trust – mutual trust – can evolve and develop. The relationship can focus on the positive rather than the negative. We can let go of this sense of possession. After all, I cannot possess another person physically, mentally or emotionally. I can only share through the emotional bond.
To me, as implied above, the most powerful force binding two people together is largely emotional – intangible. Freedom is the greatest test. As the old saying goes, open the cage, and if the bird flies away, it was never yours. If a partner is free to do as s/he pleases and s/he chooses to stay with you, then I submit that bond is far more powerful than license, religious blessing or cage defined by jealousy. I would rather know that my mate chooses to stay with me because they want to, rather than because they are afraid of what might happen if they do not. It is their actions that define their intentions. If I am free to seek other companionship and I choose not to, is that not a more powerful statement than some reticence due to fear. I think the answer is clear.
A world without jealousy would be a far better world. .
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
A few relevant
sections of the United States Federal Code:
10 USC §311. Militia: composition and classes
(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are -
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.
32 USC §105. Inspection
(a) Under regulations prescribed by him, the Secretary of the Army shall have an inspection made by inspectors general, or, if necessary, by any other commissioned officers of the Regular Army detailed for that purpose, to determine whether -
(1) the amount and condition of property held by the Army National Guard are satisfactory;
The Constitution is a framework – a guideline – a map for the conduct of government in doing the People's work. Any attempt to make it more than that for whatever purpose is wrong. The Constitution provides for change, expects changes, and offers various levels of change. To interpret the Constitution as some inviolate document of perfection ignores the very structure of the Constitution itself. If it was perfect in the Founder's minds, there would be no proviso for change at any level and least of all at the constitutional level. That is clearly not the case. Thus, it is this arena that we examine drug enforcement policy, gun control and so many others. The most volatile of these societal debate topics must the 2nd Amendment versus gun control advocacy.
The interpretation of the 2nd Amendment appears to hinge upon the definition of 'well regulated Militia.' A well-regulated militia cannot be individual citizens acting as individuals. Title 10 USC §311(a) is often cited as the differentiation between organized [National Guard] and unorganized militia, and the inference that the citizenry is expected to be armed; as I read the words, I do not see that inference. Title 32 USC §105(a)(1), through the ownership of the organized [National Guard] arms by the government, is cited to infer the definition of 'Arms' in the 2nd Amendment equates to military weapons, and thus, up to and including automatic weapons for a citizen between 17 and 45 years of age; again, I am not sure I see the inference. There are those among us who have taken this interpretation to include 20mm cannon, rocket launchers and artillery [the largest bore I have heard to date is 105mm howitzer]. This latter interpretation simply cannot be correct or appropriate. Plus, I have a fundamental problem with that extension of the 2nd Amendment to automatic weapons. 'Well regulated Militia' in my mind involves training, currency, proficiency, order & discipline, and most of all command. Individuals wandering around independently are not 'well regulated militia.' The word 'regulated' is a key modifier. Further, in 1791, the United States was a relatively small country…a hard day's horseback ride or several weeks on foot. It is so much more than that today. So, from my perspective, hinging the defense of the 2nd Amendment upon rhetoric of the 18th Century and a liberal interpretation of a 'well regulated Militia' is very weak at best.
The limits on the 2nd Amendment are important. I do not nor cannot see the 2nd Amendment as unbounded. Even in the light of 18th Century rhetoric and the context in which it was delivered, I cannot see an infinite extension of the 2nd Amendment. So, in my mind, the apparent insistence of the NRA on unbounded gun ownership, or at least an all or nothing stance, does not float. If a pistol is OK and a nuclear device is not, then where between those two extremes does the limit lie? In addition to the class of weapons is a crudely related quantity question; as reported, the Branch Davidians, while being roughly 100 members or a couple of strong platoons, possessed sufficient weapons up to and including automatic weapons for a couple of strong companies. The argument through the translation of the 2nd Amendment that Arms is defined as military weapons, e.g., assault rifles, is a stretch. The Swiss & Israelis do have mid-caliber semi-automatic and automatic weapons in their homes, some prominently displayed. They also have a constituted militia and are small countries…border to border, less than a day travel…with mandatory military service similar to our reserves. So, I am really having a struggle with automatic weapons and especially large caliber [>10mm] automatic weapons.
I might add at this juncture that I see those tragic days of the 60's and 70's, and the rabid, almost blind, combat of communism as the wellspring of many evils, e.g., J. Edgar Hoover's decision to violate the law in pursuit of radicals with the resultant degeneration of the FBI, the conspiracies of those times, the broad distrust of government, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Vietnam stands alone as one of the biggest results along with what I see as the government's one step short of killing 58,000 Americans outright with its lack of support, the degeneration of societal values and especially family values, and the general loss of discipline. This pall overlies this entire debate and unfortunately colors our responses.
The tragedy in this specific debate is the polarization at the extremes of our citizenry. As a defender of the Constitution and the 2nd Amendment, I cannot and will not ever accept any attempt at repeal. I own weapons for the protection of my family and my property; I will continue to do so and argue the necessity of those weapons. Conversely, I cannot accept the dogma of the other extreme that there are no limits on the 2nd Amendment. Insistence on this unbounded interpretation begs for laws to define limits. As a Jeffersonian, I have a fundamental problem with more laws and more intrusion by the government in our private lives. However, I would feel better about supporting a public defense or resistance of limitations on the 2nd Amendment if the principal advocates of the liberal interpretation recognized the limitations. I am not embarrassed to say that Ruby Ridge and Waco, and the resistance of those individuals [groups] to the proper execution of the law was an affront to proper citizenship and my sense of honor in our system of government. While I believe the FBI made some mistakes, they were in the main acting in good faith against those who advocated the illegal & violent use of arms and possessed arms far beyond the 2nd Amendment. So, for me, Ruby Ridge & Waco are clarion calls, not against the government, but against those radical fringe groups who use the 2nd Amendment as some shield for their illegal activities.
It does not take many murders in our schools to bring the very pressure we are currently feeling. We have allowed the debate in these emotional responses to be focused upon the 2nd Amendment; that is wrong both strategically and tactically. I do agree with the argument that guns don't kill, people do. So, why haven't we gone after the accountability of parents, in all its forms? Why haven't we exposed the weakness of the judicial system that fails to punish chronic criminals or the myriad of existing laws? Why have we allowed this debate to be focused upon guns? The NRA's public remonstrations have invited this focus, almost in defiance. The NRA has taken the same stance that big tobacco has taken; the outcomes will be the same. It is perhaps too late to refocus this debate. As a citizen, I am afraid this debate is going to get ugly before it is resolved. The best advice I could give the NRA is to stand back from the emotional, inflammatory rhetoric and face the issue squarely. This is not a question of gun control; this is a question of our society's enforcement of certain standards of behavior. As long as the NRA continues to make the 2nd Amendment the focus, they will achieve the very result they seek so adamantly to avoid.
As a citizen, I am gravely concerned about our overreaction to a vociferous minority who point their accusatory fingers at us in the harsh light of another school killing with automatic weapons.
Cap is not sure how relevant his thoughts on this topic are to the general public. Essay available upon request.
Taxation in the context of citizenship is a charge levied upon persons or groups within the domain of a government for its support; as such, taxation is a powerful instrument. By some process, those funds are distributed to accomplish the government's business, and presumably, to do the people's business. The latter element is always a point of debate depending upon many things like the type of government, the activism of the people, the allocation process, among so many others.
To take taxation to an extreme, taxation is a legal instrument to redistribute wealth – to bring every citizen to the same level services, protection and disposable income. Through taxation, any government could accomplish what communism, as a social principle could not. Everyone is equal relative to economic capacity.
Taxation can also be viewed as an instrument of social change. Beyond the obvious mechanism for the redistribution of wealth, there are more subtle objectives such state-provided healthcare, state-provided transportation, state-provided utilities, ad infinitum. The possibilities of limitless, bound only by a government's imagination on where to spend the people's money.
The struggle for any society and the government that serves it is finding balance. On one extreme, a government through complete taxation removes all individual income and distributes the funds to its citizens through various services ostensibility for the public good. At the other extreme, minimal taxation yields limited or no services and those needs to protect the state such as national defense. The decisions made to find balance are never easy and within a democracy must involve a methodical and sometimes protracted public debate.
Taxation as an instrument of social change is a seductive process. Once a government has managed to coax its citizens to accept taxation as a normal part of life, the disbursement can be largely carried out in the guise of beneficence. The politicians and agents of the government can claim or present as generous gifts the disbursement of the public money. For those on the lower end of the economic scale, the generosity of the government appears to be a very good thing. They get something for nothing. They obtain many excellent services beyond their ability to pay for them – an enormously seductive process.
Taxation taken to the left extreme is communism by another name. It can deplete the ambition of the population. If the fruits of one's labors go others, then what stops the process from going to the limit – why work? ...be a receiver, less exertion involved. Ambition must be protected, encouraged and focused. In contrast, ambition without control can rapidly become anarchy. Once again, the question becomes one of balance.
The only means to find balance is through free and open public debate, and more importantly, an informed, engaged and concerned citizenry. The citizenry must understand, appreciate and recognize the relationship between work and reward, cost and benefit. Balance is the challenge of adequate – finding an acceptable level of services for an acceptable level of taxation without stifling the ambition, drive, energy and the enthusiasm that makes a free, vibrant and open economy run. In the end, taxation is the damper on the economic engine. The key is balance.
Tolerance seems to be the common word in our lexicon for accepting the differences of others around us. The word is woefully inadequate since it can also be used to describe one's ability to withstand pain or other abuse. As an opening premise, I shall register my objection to the use of the word, tolerance, and at the same time concede its common usage. In this context, the word will only be used relative to diversity within an organization.
To establish a basis for this treatise, tolerance is the capacity for or practice of recognizing and respecting the opinions, practices, or behavior of others.
A leader, by the very nature of the position, represents all people within a team. A team is a group of individuals organized to applied productive labor for the accomplishment of some planned set of tasks. While the leader of a team may have the right to hire or collect members of a team, the membership is often predetermined or acquired as part of a leader's assignment to a team. More often than not, a leader is asked to work with the team she is given. Thus, individuals within a team may have any combination of gender, race, ethnicity, religions, sexual orientation or disabilities.
Social factors – gender, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation – in part, define an individual. They also establish the basis for social interaction. They may even delineate an affinity between individuals or groups. While gender, race and to a certain extent ethnicity may be readily apparent to others, the other social factors will not be so apparent except where religious, ethnic or other unique clothing or symbols are worn or displayed. These social factors have absolutely no bearing on any individual's ability to perform workplace tasks, in that, how can anyone argue that the color of a person's skin can affect their work performance? Likewise, the same reality is true for all social factors.
At this juncture, a special note must be made of specific exceptions regarding gender and sexual orientation, and in a separate aspect, disability. There are and should be restrictions relative to gender and sexual orientation in some very specific jobs within the combat arms of the military; see Limits on Gender Integration. For the most part, job qualifications must be defined by skills to perform the tasks associated with a specific job. Thus, there are jobs that will exclude individuals with certain disabilities. Other than these specific instances, I can find no other jobs that should restrict any individual due to any of the social factors.
Leaders set standards, establish expectations, create a beneficial work environment for job performance, and remove obstacles to satisfactory productivity. These requirements are true for the whole team regardless of the social factors applicable to any particular team member. If a leader espouses her personal beliefs in the workplace, how can it not affect those who do not share her beliefs? A leader must remain neutral and essentially blind regarding the social factors regardless of her personal beliefs. If she cannot do so, she should not seek leadership positions. While it may be acceptable for employees to make their personal beliefs known to others, it is certainly not appropriate for leaders. Keep social or personal beliefs from the workplace.
Intolerance creates tension, conflict and eventually team disintegration by implicitly or explicitly placing one group above another in a superior position. The logic of perceived superiority is often quite insidious. My religion is the only religion, all others are infidels. My race is the majority race, all others are of lesser station. Evangelical fervor is laudable in one's personal life; it can be and usually is disastrous in the workplace. How would you feel if you were not of the majority race, religion or gender? While a position of superiority might provide some superficial sense of satisfaction, in reality, superiority becomes the genesis of its own destruction. The only stable position is equality, and equality in the workplace can only be achieved when there is not preference or recognition of the differences associated with the social factors.
The divine right of kings established the predominance of a single man above the many simply by his heritage at birth, not by some order or process of the people. It established the king as the supreme mortal within a community. While a king may have demonstrated prowess on the battlefield or some other important societal event, in the end, he is just a human like all the rest of us, no better no worse. Any classification that places one human being above another is really no different than hereditary royalty. As such, that position of superiority must be categorically rejected.
Corporations cannot tolerate intolerance. Teams cannot tolerate intolerance. Leaders must not tolerate intolerance. There is no way to define a beneficial work environment where any individual or group of individuals defines themselves as superior to anyone else who is different from them.
We can play semantic games surrounding words like superior or different, but it all comes down to acceptance of and embracing our differences. We should rejoice in our differences, be thankful for our differences, and to a certain extent preserve our differences. The many variations within each of the social factors add enormous depth, contrast and richness to all our lives whether we wish to recognize them or not. We should enjoy the diversity that is mankind and not try to make everyone conform to some preconceived mold, believe, image or appearance.
A leader, and for that matter every member of a team, must make every effort to ignore the social factors. Concentrate solely on performance, the skills of the individual, intellectual contribution and the labor contribution to the team. The workplace is about work – productive labor. It is not a place for social demonstration. And, the workplace is not a pulpit for any individual and especially a leader to an evangelical purpose.
Recognize each of us as individuals with unique & perhaps individual beliefs and maybe some shared values that define right and wrong. Then, be a leader of all the people, not just those who believe as you believe.
In any healthy organization, the contrast of ideas, views, opinions and experience adds enormous strength, depth and resiliency to the performance of a team. A contra-example to illustrate the importance of diversity might be: if everyone were exactly the same – thought alike, had the same view of the world – there would be no variety, and there would certainly not be the broad spectrum of possibilities that diversity brings. To use an abused metaphor, if all ice cream was vanilla, what a dull world it would be. It is through the process of constructive conflict and the ingredients of diversity that the best ideas will emerge.
Constructive conflict allows divergent and different views to be tested in the crucible of debate. Members of a team must be encouraged to argue issues as equals to achieve the proper testing ground for any idea. The object is to find the consensus or compromise that allows everyone to feel ownership in decisions as well as the planning for execution. The keystone of constructive conflict is equality. If every member of the team does not feel deep down true equality with every other member of the team, constructive conflict or any version thereof will not work. Diversity represents the contrast of life that makes constructive conflict work in such a powerful way. Diversity brings the benefit of cultural perspectives to decision-making at all levels.
Diversity & tolerance are essential elements of leadership [see Elements of Leadership] in the modern workplace regardless of whether it is government, corporate, private or military.
Social factors not related to job performance must not enter the workplace in any form. Social factors are private and personal to each individual, and include but are not limited to gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation or disability. As long as these social factors are not injected into the workplace or do not affect performance, they must be ignored by management. The use of the word, ignored, in this context does not mean a lack of sensitivity or awareness; but rather, a blindness that removes these social factors from decision-making or other business activities.
We tend to focus community emphasis regarding diversity on the obvious elements, i.e., gender, race & age – characteristics of individuality that can be seen. Tolerance is perhaps a broader term applied to all the social elements. The furtherance or acceptance of diversity as important does not mean there are no standards that might be construed to favor one faction or another. There are jobs that might favor one social factor or another, e.g., an actor's age in playing the part of a child, or an athlete thus eliminating a handicapped person. There are also a limited number of specific jobs in the military that are not appropriate for females or homosexuals, at least at the present stage of societal evolution. This is not discrimination but rationale recognition [see Limits on Gender Integration]. The vast majority of job assignments cannot in any way be defined by social terms. The ability to lift a 25-kilogram bag of grain to shoulder height may favor a male but it should not eliminate a female or older person; likewise, the performance of this lifting task has absolutely nothing to do with race, religion or sexual orientation. The job performance criteria must be blindly defined by the requirements of the job to avoid any potential for discriminatory hiring.
As is sometimes the case, religion in one form or another does cause tension relative to the social factors. Fundamentalist Christians believe homosexuality is an offense against God and therefore warrants all their efforts to stamp it out. They are entitled to their beliefs and to live their lives the way they see fit. However, they are not allowed to inject their personal beliefs [religion] into their interpersonal relations in the workplace. If they are unable to work with a homosexual colleague, then their only choice is to leave the company. It is the company's responsibility to define the workplace. The employee's right is to decide whether they wish to work at that company or not. For example, a company's smoking prohibition or drug abuse policies are the sole domain of the employer; they do not discriminate against any employee. Likewise, no individual has the right to a specific job, thus they have no rights to define the workplace. While diversity is generally the employer's objective – to have a broad-based workforce – tolerance must be a prerequisite for any employee regardless of their personal beliefs or preferences. Employers should clearly state the requirement for tolerance of diversity relative to the social factors. Likewise, employees or candidates for employment must, with full knowledge, make their decision to seek or remain employed at a tolerance focused workplace.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or
of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and
to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
[Article I, Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America]
First Amendment rights of the individual in all the manifest forms cannot be abridged or restricted. The First Amendment protects the right of each and every citizen to speak their mind, to practice their chosen religion, and to find an affinity for other citizens who share their beliefs. The First Amendment protects the rights of individuals to congregate in any manner that does not endanger public safety. However, there are limits to the First Amendment when it comes to the workplace.
The responsibility of an employer to define the standards of behavior in the workplace in no way conflicts with an individual's rights under the First Amendment. The workplace is establishment to perform productive labor for the benefit of the company or organization. Just as a church has the right to define its workplace in specific terms of its religion to the exclusion of others, so does a company have the right to define its workplace with a blind eye toward all the social factors.
A university, by its very nature as an instrument of advanced education, should be a paragon of philosophical virtue. A university depends upon diversity, contrast, debate and tolerance for its strength. A university must rise above demagoguery, the banality of the lowest common denominator, and the intolerance of isolated segments of the greater society. A university community should be the example for society of an enlightened, appreciative and aware intellectual foundation upon which the ideals of a democratic society are based.
In the end, it all comes down to acceptance of the differences between each of us, and a true and honest appreciation for the richness diversity brings to all our lives. Those who choose to narrowly define an organization and impart their narrow views on others should be view as pariahs or a disease that could destroy a free and open culture. We must protect and defend diversity and tolerance in a democratic society.
Leadership can be defined as the process of leading or guiding a group. More appropriately, leadership is the inspiration of a group of people to become coherent and accomplish great things. For those who have occupied leadership positions of any form know there is much more to leadership.
To boil it down, in the words of the late Admiral Grace Hooper, USN:
Manage Things, Lead People
The implication, of course, is that leadership is about the inspiration of people within a team to achieve a common, shared objective. Leadership in many ways is the perpetual study of people – what motivates them, how they interact, how to measure performance; what compromises will affect performance. While this is a simple phrase used to describe a complex subject, it does not reflect the complexity of human interaction and the various facets of teamwork. Admiral Hooper's simple phrase should be the mantra for all leaders.
To be the most effective, the successful leader must possess an equitable combination of skills. While this essay focuses on the people side of management, the understanding and use of financial, administrative and personnel tools are just as important as one's people skills. To favor one aspect or another increases the risk or probability of failure. Asset management techniques can be readily learned and mastered. They are generally far more objective oriented than the more intuitive people skills. The successful leader, whether in a military or industrial organization, will possess a level of mastery on both sides of the scale.
As all students of leadership & management should do, I
have tried to breakdown the essential elements of leadership. Among these
elements and from my experience the most important are:
3. Communications & Planning
10. Burdens of Leadership
I might even be so bold to suggest these elements are in priority order. Each of the aspects will be discussed in more details below.
While this essay focuses on qualities of leadership, it must be stated that aspiration to occupy leadership positions within any organization must be with full knowledge and acceptance of the expectations and demands of leadership. If a person is not willing to accept this condition, they should not seek leadership positions – a mandatory requirement in my view.
As a baseline, I shall define vision as the ability to develop an image of the future. What will a company look like in 10, 20 or perhaps 50 years? What the tactical steps necessary to achieve a strategic objective? There are a myriad of these questions as they related to a construction of a future state.
There can be no leadership without vision. This is the most fundamental prerequisite for any leader in any situation at any time. Vision establishes a sense of direction, a momentum vector. A leader's task is then to maintain the direction and build the mass and velocity required to achieve a well-defined objective. Thus, a leader must have a clear vision of some future state and a keen sense of direction to achieve that objective. In simplistic terms, as with any navigation task, one must where you are, where you want to go, and plan a path to get there. While easily said, it is far from easy to accomplish – the fuzzier the vision, the more difficult to achieve the result.
The first and paramount test for anyone considering a leadership position is the clarity of vision. If a person cannot see that vision clearly, there is virtually nothing that individual can do to succeed. Certainly, brute force and power can be used to achieve results, but at best, those tools are short term and corrosive. Clarity of vision is a 'do not pass go, do not collect $200' element – without it nothing else matters.
As with vision, which establishes objectives for the team, a leader's value system defines the standards for professional behavior and personnel interaction. Most organizations have value systems that have been created over the years. The higher up a leader operates within an organization, the more important that a leader must impart a value system that enables mission accomplishment. Values define how we interact with each other and thus will have a major effect on teamwork and individual interactions. A clearly defined value system is essential. You must stand for something, and a team looks to the leader for those standards. The difficulty with a discussion of values is they are quite personal, and any presentation of values is quite likely to be perceived as preaching. This is will not be even a cursory discussion of values. However, there are a few keys elements based on my experience.
Some of these may seem like apple pie and motherhood, but they are often unstated and occasionally not enforced. First and foremost in my mind is integrity. High integrity is the basis for trust. Without trust, teamwork is virtually impossible to build. Next is respect – respect for the individuality, diversity and contrasts each person brings to a team. To avoid any accusations of preaching, let's close this brief exchange with the importance of civility and professional behavior in the workplace. The use of profanity, threatening language or any form of intimidation whether verbal or non-verbal should never be tolerated for any reason, at any time, or in any part of the professional workplace. As a related aspect, situations of offense must be dealt with promptly, equitably and with compassion. If transgressions, whether intentional or not, are not dealt with quickly and fairly, they will most probably become corrosive and perhaps cancerous for a team. There are obviously many other values of importance, but these seem to be the most fundamental. As with most issues involving people, there is an intricacy and weave to virtually all these elements. Without clear values . . . standards and expectations are very hard to define in a consistent manner and team performance objectives illusive to achieve.
3. Communications & Planning
This is without question the most expansive element of leadership, and while perhaps not the most important attribute, it is the most important operational element. Without good communications, it is impossible to impart the vision and values of the leader to the team. Communications is this context is and must be bi-directional in every aspect. Communication within a team is the mortar that holds the bricks together. Thus, the weaker the communications or the more unidirectional, the more likely the mortar will fail to hold the bricks together.
Great leaders are great listeners. They also have exceptional communications skills in the broadest sense. They are often prolific writers – short notes to friends, papers, essays and often books. It is through their communications skills that leaders are able to transmit, to disseminate the vision they have. They also use their skills to influence others in a wide variety of ways. There are also many facets of communications itself, however in this short treatise, I shall focus on the most important of these facets – planning.
Planning [to include the publication and dissemination of plans] is the baseline for most operational communications. A plan is a common point of reference [both internal & external, where appropriate], a guide, a statement of expectations, and a means to affect and measure performance. Planning is generally the means be which a leader focuses a team on the vision for the organization. The process of planning is one of constructive conflict where members of the team can participate, argue the merits of various details of a plan and come to a consensus. It is this process that enables the broadest ownership of the plan by all members of the team.
The leader of a team must represent all members of the team. With the strength diversity brings to a team, the leader must ensure all members of the team feel comfortable and appreciated. All organizations regardless of mission must define job skills and performance requirements for each position within a team. There are very few jobs where any of the social elements – age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and in most cases, disability – will ever be a factor in job performance. A caveat is warranted; social elements do not belong in the workplace including the employee, e.g., a woman wearing provocative clothing intended to bring sexual attention, or a religious shrine that would interfere with the workplace environment. The key here is neutrality; if an employer is expected to be neutral on social elements, then it is only reasonable for the employee to remain neutral, i.e., avoid interjections of social elements in the work environment. A good leader should be blind to social elements; all members of a team must be treated equitably and without regard to the social elements.
Since leadership is about people, a good leader must have an affinity for people. If you do not care for people and their well-being, avoid leadership positions. Leaders are also students of people – what makes them tick, what is important to them, what are their ambitions. Having compassion for people leads a good leader to be a mentor, to support the advancement of others. A measure of leadership & compassion is the depth of one's bench, or in military terms, the leadership skill of a general is measured by the skills of his lieutenants.
Every individual is unique and as such requires different attention, stimuli, rewards and support. The implicit requirements of a leadership position must be to find balance within the team. Balance between the uniqueness of each individual and the objectives of the team. In many respects, this is perhaps the hardest of the leadership traits to achieve. It is a constant challenge to the effective leader and requires good communications within the team, feedback processes at all levels and above all a keen understanding of people. The point of balance will change as members of the team change and as the mission or objectives of the team change. A leader must constantly be aware of the balance within a team and strive to adjust the various aspects of teamwork to maintain balance.
This particular attribute may seem out of place on this list or in this context. However, for those who have been in leadership positions, the need for perseverance is required and necessary. Most people are fundamentally resistant to change. They become comfortable doing what they like to do and want to preserve those conditions. The process of change within an organization demands leadership, and a clear vision with a calm, persistent, fair hand in placing the bar and expectations for the team's performance. Changes within any body of human beings take time. The effective leader must be in the process for the long haul. The confidence and skill of a leader will be tested in his or hers ability to stay the course toward the vision and objectives established for the team.
The skills of diplomacy are required beyond the affairs of state. Whether within the domain of a married couple or a team of people, or an organization of many teams, the daily forces common to any relationship demand compromise to find a stable balance. Further, during the planning process, searching out consensus among the uniqueness of each person demands a strong element of diplomacy – the ability to understand the forces at play, see the objectives, and find the points of common interest no matter how narrow. Also, the leader must know how to feel the mood of the team and develop the consensus through diplomatic instruction to ensure each member of the team feels full ownership in the plan as well as the process. A leader's diplomatic skills are largely developed through experience and of all the attributes depends observation of others [what works and does not work], and an appreciation of the diversity people bring to the workplace.
Some managers see themselves as the drive – the energy –the heart – of a team. Effective leaders are more like the soul of a team that finds the heart and enables great things. Leaders do nothing productive other than inspire the team to accomplish its objectives. Teams are amplifying structures that make possible the accomplishment of the group and make it more than the sum of its individuals. From my experience, the most successful leaders are those that become part of the team, disappear within the team, and are otherwise transparent to those beyond the team.
10. Burdens of Leadership
Lastly, for all the rewards a leader can enjoy in watching a team perform well, there are several important burdens a leader must willing bare. First among these burdens is a leader's job is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, everywhere team interaction might occur, whether public or private. A leader must set a good example no matter the time, location or setting. In many respects, a leader must willingly sacrifice personal freedoms common to many others. This is the basis upon which some managers fail to uphold the extra high standards of leadership and abuse the power they hold [see Abuse of Power]. Understanding these burdens and jealously guarding one's integrity to avoid any abuse of power, implicit or explicit, takes enormous courage of the type some people will not recognize. Holding onto these high standards will take substantial personal inner strength for once lost, like trust, it is very difficult the regain.
Leadership is fragile. It depends upon the confidence of people – their perception of the leader and their mission. If an organization believes a leader will not be successful, there is virtually nothing he can do to succeed. If the group sees the leader as successful, there is almost nothing he can do to fail. After all, it is the focus, the cohesion, and the coherence of the team that really accomplishes missions, objectives, production and achievement. An effective leader is constantly looking for indications of performance that help him gauge the attitudes, concerns and moods of the group, and adjust to make achieve the desired results. In the end, leadership is simply all about people.