Do Circumstances Influence Leader Selection?

Continuing our conversation about the leadership selection process, Mike Lehr of Omega Z Advisors forwarded another set of questions:

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The Premise

When I look at events, I see four major forces: circumstances, flow, people and leader. From my perspective, you wrote about the last two. [See “Scientists and Sages Can Agree on This.” wp.me/p46Y5Z-8W and “How Bad People Become Leaders,” wp.me/p46Y5Z-9B.]

I’m asking about the first two.

Mike’s Comments about Circumstances

In regard to the conditionality of leadership, I welcome your thoughts on the influences circumstances have on leadership.

For example, just as terrain influences the type of battle to wage, there are market forces, technological influences and timing issues at play. All of these influence the selection of leaders.

For example, I often ask folks this question: Which dog would you prefer, a collie or a pit bull? Most usually indicate a collie. However, when I add the qualification that you now live in a very dangerous, crime-ridden neighborhood, they tend to revert to the pit bull.

Relating this to business, a firm in high-growth mode is a different situation than one in trouble or growing incrementally. Market forces and competition are also circumstantial influences.

My Response

The leadership selection process depends largely upon who the selectors are. The formal process in small business and corporate sectors varies, depending upon ownership, mission, size and by-laws. Similarly, who many participate in the selection of political leaders differs by location across the globe.

What all have in common, however, is the principle of natural selection. As Mike suggests, people instinctively gravitate towards those best suited to protect the flock and ensure group survival. For example, during war times, women prefer mates with mechanical, farming and martial arts skills over impractical, unskilled intellectuals. Conversely, during prosperous peace times when basic survival items like food, clothing, and shelter are widely available, intellectuals with the high earning power to purchase them are favored.

Here, observations made by a mentor at the Wisconsin School Board Association serve as a useful example. He told me that the selection of a school district administrator starts with the search for a harsh disciplinarian to force teacher unions and unruly students to “toe the line.” This works for a while. But then heavy-handed administration gets old. Abuses of authority are resented. So opponents mobilize to “throw the bum out.” They search for a mild-mannered replacement who is who is teacher-friendly and soft on discipline.

However, in due time, this lax approach starts to rub other factions in the community the wrong way. Yet another selection process is initiated to bring in a tougher new leader who will restore “law and order.” Opposite and equal challenges continue to generate an ongoing succession of new faces in the administrator role.

The senior School Board Association officer had witnessed this process long enough to recognize a repeating pattern. Elected, short-term school board members in local communities probably didn’t.

These pendulum swings between extremes are natural, but not optimal. Instead of repeated, disruptive shifts between between contrasting leadership styles, it’s possible to sustain cultural continuity by harmonizing contrasting opposites. An alternative, I Ching-savvy approach balances the demands of different groups within the community.

In this worldview, the sought-after leader is keenly attuned to fluctuating economic / political as well as technological changes in the environment. Such a leader isn’t driven by circumstances, but rather has an overview of the directions in which they continuously change. With an understanding of natural law, this leader has the ability to steer followers safely through every stage of the organization’s life.

Thus, in the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tze advises leaders to adjust with the times to maintain long-term tenure as well as organizational stability in all circumstances:

Adhere to principle / while adjusting to circumstance.

Goals are secured / by remaining flexible and open.

Caveat: When working with the I Ching, it is essential to keep its place within the larger scheme of things firmly in mind. Otherwise, it is subject to dangerous abuses. The abode of Natural Law in the Positive Paradigm Context is the middle level of the Unified Wheel. It stands as the gatekeeper between Human Law (legislation and custom) on the surface and Divine Law at the center. Its powerful applications are equally effective regardless of whether the user’s motives be for good or evil.

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While good (meaning responsible, competent and compassionate) leaders are sometimes wary of working with the I Ching because of its potential for abuse, bad (meaning irresponsible, selfish and cruel) leaders who have no respect for either Human or Divine Law feel free to use their understanding of human dynamics to manipulate others for antisocial purposes. [See “Know When to Mistrust Inner Voices,” wp.me/p46Y5Z-aR.]

For example, I have warned repeatedly about the disaster looming ahead in the next U.S. election cycle. Extraordinarily extreme abuses by the political left may have been deliberately orchestrated by behind-the-scenes puppet masters, as if to precipitate an opposite and equally extreme reaction. [See “To Push a Man Right, First Push Him Left,” wp.me/p46Y5Z-9K.]

I’ve also hinted at the urgently necessary antidote to this potentially deadly outcome. [See “What’s More Important–-Nature, Nurture, OR . . ,” wp.me/p46Y5Z-8k.]  In that blog, I conclude:

Leaders who intentionally live true their conscience and succeed in linking the levels of life are key to a viable future. The rest of us will depend on them to out-think, out-maneuver and succeed long after pretenders with no substantial connection to the center of life have been blown away like dust in the wind.

To Be Continued:

The next installment will include responses to Mike’s comments about the fourth factor, “flow,” as well as what he calls “non-cultural” issues.

 

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