Friday, April 2, 2010


I just now finished reading a biography of Richard J. Daley, mayor of Chicago from 1954-1976. The book, entitled American Pharoah, is both demeaning and flattering of the person known simply as "BOSS," the title of an earlier biography written by Chicago columnist Mike Royko. Growing up just outside of Chicago, many of the events and names througout the book were familir to me, having shaped my earlier years in terms of what leadership should look like.

Richard J. Daley, while known by most people for the events surrounding the 1968 Democratic Convention held in Chicago, was known in Chicago for the way he controlled the "machine" that ran Chicago politics for many, many years. Looking back on those times, I am struck by the paradox that while personally I am against any such graft or politicking, I also can see how much progress was made for the city of Chicago during these times. There is no doubt that Mayor Daley loved Chicago and its people - and did everything he could to make it a great city. The fact that he did it using policital cronyism at the expense of many others, bothers me - yet I wonder if Chicago would be the city it is today without such political behavior.

I know that it is poeple like Richard J. Daley (among many others) who give the term "acting politically" a bad name. Leaders have to be able to "act politically" to get things make things drive change. The term itself - "to act politically" - is not inherently evil. Leaders have all kinds of power to do so - and that is where the problem often lies. Having the multiple types of power available to onself can easily lead to corruption. The famous phrase - "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely" - often makes people leery of power. Leaders who become leery of power will often refuse to use it for the good of their organizations. Not only may the not know how to act politically...they refuse to act politically, keeping their followers and their organization from moving forward and enacting significant change.

Perhaops the answer lies in Jim Collins' theory of Level 5 Leadership, which he describes as those who have the indomintable will to act coupled with intense humility. There was not much humility in Richard J. Daley's life - thought there was incredible will to act. On the other hand, we as a country witnessed great humilty from President Gerald Ford, with little or no will to act. Is there a middle ground? I certianly hope so, and I believe it can be accomplished in some of the following ways:
  • leaders need to know what the mission and vision is - and keep that as the main goal
  • leaders need to surround themselves with people of differing views, not only by what is often referred to as "yes-men"
  • leaders need to continually ask themselves whether their actions are for the greater good or for a select group of people
  • leaders need to continually self-reflect and honestly look at their own motives
  • leaders need to comfortable with the paradox of doing what is good for the institution AND taking care of people at the same time
  • leaders need to confront their own prejudices and ways of behavior, dealing honestly with actions that conflict with the mission, vision and values of the institution
  • leaders need time to be by themselves, not always surrounded by the pressure of the moment
  • leaders need to be aware of their care for "the least of these," whomever that might be in their organziations and communities

It's good to be "boss" - it's good to be in charge - it's good to act politically - it's good to have power...but it's also good to remain humble - and it's also good to build a larger base of leadership - and it's also good to act justly - and it's also good to share power. These seemingly contradictory ways of thinking are some of the hallmarks of great leadership, which can be used to move an organization forward and to act for the common good.

That being said, I just wanted to say once again that these are the type of leaders we will be developing through The Concordia MBA, which will see its inagural class begin in the fall of 2010. The first information session is scheduled for Tuesday, April 6 at 5:30 PM at Concordia University Texas. This is an exciting time for us in the College of Business. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we move forward in this venture.

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Do you think Mayor Daley would be able to accomplish as much for Chicago in today's society? With Generation X and Generation Y electronically watching his every move on Twitter or Facebook? I agree that humility is important--and important for all generations of leaders. In looking at how each generation functions (Veterans, Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, NextGen), how does one's generational background enhance or hinder the way they lead others?