When you’re talking about being involved in leadership of any kind, be it military or business or even just a simple group project at a particular institution, one of the most important skills for a leader to possess is the ability to properly process and utilize emotion both internally and externally. Leadership itself is the business of building and maintaining relationships, both with your subordinates and your superiors; so in order to navigate those waters as an individual, you must understand yourself on a level that allows you to best predict and handle the fluctuations of emotions within yourself in order to make better decisions more quickly. Knowing yourself emotionally will also help to ease the process of understanding the thoughts and feelings of those around you, allowing you to have a better incite and appreciation for the perspective of others; having this will not only help you to just relate to your people, but it will help you to understand exactly why it is they are the way they are or why they behave a particular way. It just seems to me, that in my past experiences in dealing with various structures of hierarchy and leadership, wherever there was a presence of either bad leadership or a bad chemistry between the leaders and subordinates; more often than not either there was a lack of understanding on an emotional and consequently a structural level, or there was a serious shortage of relatability between the parties involved. For myself, I always found it harder to operate as a leader of any form whenever I went through phases of emotional instability or insecurity, and the same can also be said for instances where I’ve tried to lead people whom I have nothing to relate to or vice versa. If others cannot relate to you emotionally or at least can see that you have something that allows you to relate to them on some level, then it is unlikely that they will ever come to respect you as a leader whom they would preferably follow. When leading without the presence of this respect or admiration, more often than not you will be leading simply out of a place of title, structural momentum, or fear; none of which are very efficient.
Funny thing about humans, are brains were built as a cognitive processing unit meant for pattern recognition within the surrounding outside world but conversely that same ability applies itself to internal pattern recognition as well. As we identify patterns within ourselves and our behaviors, we desire to look outward at the behavior of others in order to find some sort of common ground or relatability. One such facet of this outward search for identifiable common variables within ourselves and others is the creation of these “personality tests”; meant simply to demonstrate through light screening and vague questioning what category of personality you may fall under. I myself fell into the category referred to as INFP (Introverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiving), meaning that I process most things internally through the use of emotional feeling and intuition. Although I would have to agree with this particular analysis, I must follow with a critical caveat. I have taken many personality tests for a number of reasons over the course of my life, and despite a few common variables for the most part they were almost always different at certain points of my life. You may have one or two things about you that just never really go away, but as you grow so to does your emotional awareness and understanding of yourself, and your feelings about things within the world around you change. Though I do believe there are undeniable commonalities between certain people and certain kinds of thoughts, feelings or behaviors; the human mind seems to be constantly evolving through the process of aging and development, and the spectrum of malleability within the human mind seems almost infinite. Trying to categorize something so various and unique through the use of tests based on simple polarized questions seems almost too base or course for the very social science that invented them.
Leadership in theory and practice can seem as equally an innate quality as it is a learned trait. Personalities and situations vary from group to group and person to person, so what works best in one instance may not work as well for another group of individuals in a completely different environment. All of this seems to be behavioral based for the most part, and one of the easiest distinctions to make between certain kinds of leaders are those who are driven by providing structural support and those who are driven solely by the accomplishment of certain tasks within the organization. Off handedly, most would assume that a leader who is more focused on taking care of their people would be the preferable candidate to get things done right, but there’s something to be said for those whose driving motivation is to get as much done as possible. Why exactly would anyone want to work for someone who cares about the mission above all else? “It is possible that task leadership may even improve job satisfaction because people do not like working in disorganized, inefficient, and confusing workplaces without clear instructions or procedures.” This to me suggests that there is a trade off that goes on within most people’s minds when it comes to organizational leadership; comfort and personal security vs proficiency and organizational functionality. These differences of course come back to differences in personality types, and organizational structure. Some would rather deal with leaders who are more worried about their employees rather than the structural integrity of the business, while some would rather work for a sound organized team that is task driven but does so in a way that puts the associates’ wellbeing in the backseat.
Machiavelli’s work The Prince, is a perfect way of illustrating the variance in leadership and power in relation to a particular populous in a macro level. Machiavelli starts by explaining the relationship between the hierarchy and the people of certain principalities, and the given attitude held by those people towards the leadership which determines the kinds of power it can then possess. Machiavelli goes on to explain that more often than not, the longer that a particular leader or leaders have been in power and have been exposed to the public eye, the easier it would be for that leadership to continue it’s given political platform or how easily the leadership could attain even more power. This demonstrates the potential of engrained learned behavior or acceptance within a group of followers over a certain period of time. People always fear the unknown, and considering political or social alternatives when you’ve known nothing but one particular system becomes increasingly more difficult with the passage of time. Machiavelli is careful to make a very clear line of distinction between these older principalities who’ve established these older learned behaviors versus those who have just begun to form, as well as the socioeconomic and political variations within them. One of the most clever perspectives offered by Machiavelli is this notion of controlling recently conquered states and people; going on to explain the importance of devastation, occupation, and the establishment of taxes and an oligarchy to further said control. These previously stated variables seem to provide the said conquered state with the illusion that the integrity of that nation or state has not been compromised, but rather like a business this state has simply come under “new management”. Rather than trying to clear house and start from scratch, Machiavelli suggests an idea very similar to that of a quiet merger, within reason. This is arguably a very pragmatic approach, but it still seems to carry this innate sinister nature within. Admittedly, the book does on to explain the necessary reason for such a balanced opaque approach to new leadership strategy, using the allegory of how an individual might rise to become a prince and the polarized nature of different approaches taken by those who stray down said path; stating that those who simply bullied there way to the top may achieve power but no glory, and vice Vera’s for the opposite approach. Machiavelli goes on to explain the difference in social class of particular citizens, and the difference in motivations between those groups of people and how that may play in to social development. This demonstrates further that there are and should be different approaches to leadership dependent upon the situation and that parties involved. All of this of course dictates the overall political strategy of a particular state or organization; it is a complex equation of time, circumstances, traditions, political preferences, and social influences. There is no one true way, or even a preferred multiple choice; it is a constant flowing conglomeration of factors and variables which much be maticuosly managed and observed in order to understand what exactly should be done next to preserve the longevity of a particular principality.
The last six chapters of Effective Leadership more or less wrap the book up by deeply summarizing all the variables that makes up the intricate relationship between leaders and their followers, the development necessary to derive such a relationship and the individuals involved, and the different forms of authority and intention held by certain leaders in particular situations; helping to further drive home the reality that leadership is a complex concept made up of an almost infinite varieties of personal and organizational factors. Initially, Humphrey takes the time to describe self empowerment within organizations along with the distribution of leadership within an organization. In a nutshell, this is a perfect description of a concept in the military known as decentralized command, which is the idea that if every individual in a particular unit is as equally qualified to do any and all jobs within that particular unit and everyone is as equally motivated to complete the agreed upon mission, then that unit will have achieved their full potential for organizational efficacy. This process is accelerated by the removal of simple negative factors such as procrastination, emotional self absorption, and delayed gratification within the hierarchy of the organization. This organization transformation starts on an individual level within things such as behavior, natural reward systems based on priority, and constructive thought strategies. So when your organization is as equally motivated and dedicated on a personal and emotional level as it is on the macro grand scale level, it can create a truly “low drag” and efficient approach to it’s agreed upon mission. The book then goes on to describe the importance of “authentic leaders”, and a self serving positive energy that can be established within an organization that can provide the quality of motivation needed to accomplish it’s goals. Leaders are people to, and people are a constantly evolving and changing as you gain experience within the passage of time. We have to be aware of the fact that the person we are today may not be the person we are tomorrow, and we must work to keep ourselves rooted in a particular set of morals and ethics, but we must also be open to the importance of new experiences; both good and bad, there is almost always some form of inner psychological capital to be gained from said experiences which we can utilize to make ourselves better in the long run. When efficacy of self is propagated on an individual level within an organization, it is often disseminated both upward and downward within the hierarchy of the organization; creating a work domain self efficacy. Once this is achieved, optimism within an organization can be set to flourish, driven mainly by the molding qualities of adversity, belief, consequences, disputes, and energization. So once the proper environment has been established on both the macro and micro levels for leadership and development to occur, then real progress can be made towards complete and total organizational efficacy and consequently completion of the given mission or goal(s). Another important step towards this end goal is the development of identity on both the personal and organizational level; if you aren’t sure who you are and what you want, and the same can be said for your organization, then you’ll have no self assurance, no direction, and a proliferation of insecurity. All of these negative qualities can go from something as simple as road bump to a mile wide crater in your journey towards organizational efficacy and your completion of the mission. The book goes on to elaborate that a leader can utilize the idea of a collective identity within an organization to propagate altruistic behaviors among his/her subordinates, which when combined with effective distributed leadership (decentralized command) can help to create a presence of heightened and effective leadership behavior within the organization. This requires the presence of a core identity within the populous of the group, which helps each individual to recognize the role they play in this broad view strategy. This can become difficult in certain circumstances due to the fact that most people have multiple selves within them; how and what someone is at work may not be exactly the same way they are outside of work, and with that difference comes a variance in priorities and focus. Ideally, you’d like to reach a point within your organization’s development where each and every individual involved in your mission is as equally focused and motivated on the completion of a given task to the point where what your organization is and what it does becomes the central focus of those individuals’ lives. A good example of this can be seen in the preparation and lifestyle of special forces units; those involved normally know nothing outside of what is going on within those units, nor do they really care to become interested in anything otherwise. This creates a level of efficiency and unit cohesion that can hardly be matched anywhere in the private sector. Humphrey then goes on to chain the next four chapters together, at least in my mind, in order to describe different forms authority within leadership, the attitudes and energies displayed by said leaders, and the differences between those who are motivated to lead either by empirical success or transformational successes among the group. Being a leader usually implies that your power within the group is usually derived from some source of respect or control; be it position/title, control of a resource or operation, or a personal display of qualities that inspire or guide those around you. Within that are varying degrees of charisma required to motivate those involved to press forward towards the intended goal, while also requiring a certain level personal rhetoric that allow you to communicate clearly and concisely with those around you. The impression you give from these qualities will help to derive the relationship you hold with your subordinates and the nature of how and why exactly it is that people are following you in the first place. Although these are personal qualities that are developed within yourself over time, they manifest themselves in the way you behave and your subconscious focus/drive towards whatever it is that motivates you. Humphrey makes the distinction between leaders who are more focused goal setting in a way that moves a group either empirically or fiscally towards the future. A terrific example of this is managers or leaders who are focused on beating last years sales and give little to no regard as to how the organization is developing on a human level. Conversely, there are managers or leaders who derive their motivation by seeing development and growth within their chain of command through things such as improved attitude or energy among their subordinates, or the classic “climbing the chain” done by those beneath them in their own journey towards personal development. Ultimately, your motivations and priorities as a leader will help to dictate which of the many paths that you and your organization will take towards the hopes of achieving whatever it is your group has set out to do, and the nature of your journey and development along the way; both personally and organizationally, and the qualities of group cohesion you will develop that will you help you along the way.
Within this particular section of chapters Isaacson starts by demonstrating the difference in setting of upbringing for both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and the subsequent differences in life experiences that followed and how that affected their development of internal business ethics; leading to the vastly different natures of their individual journeys towards becoming tech tycoons. Gates, having been the son of a prominent Seattle attorney, felt that it was only ethical to at least acknowledge that both the Microsoft and McIntosh platforms were both technical rip offs of the original Xerox platform. Jobs on the other hand, having been brought up as a free spirited hippie or flower child, felt that this was an unnecessary comparison for which he held a lifelong grudge against Gates; further fueling the long term competitive nature between the two tech conglomerates. This somewhat self righteous internal view that Jobs held for himself would later come back to haunt him, specifically with his inflexible view of the McIntosh operating systems evolution which lead directly to his being voted out of the company and being told to leave. Despite the negative nature of this instance, Jobs seized this as an opportunity for self development outside of the tech world spotlight; initially by forming his own tech development firm and attempting to create the NeXt computer system which ultimately failed due to a lack of funding from figures such as Bill Gates, as well as the fact that the NeXt’s price point was much too high to sell well. Jobs began looking elsewhere for investment and development opportunities, and after acquiring a majority control of Lucasfilms development and animations department. After re-marketing the organization as Pixar, and developing animations for films such as Tin Toy and subsequently Toy Story with a partnership with Disney, Jobs finally began to see a first serious return on investment in quite some time. During the following years Jobs experienced a serious fluctuation in his personal life; going through a serious break up, losing his biological mother, and later working to reconnect with old friends. An interesting point to be made about Jobs from this time in his life was that those who dated him claimed he suffered from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which would only add to our understanding of his overconfident rigid attitude in his personal life and business alike. Despite this self centered attitude, things in Jobs personal life slowly began to pick up with the meeting of his future wife Laurene Powell, his reconnection with his first daughter, and then having his next three children with Laurene. This seems to be exactly the kind of personal motivation and security Jobs needed in order to make his next big move in business; striking up a deal between Pixar and Disney for a 50/50 share in profits within the wake of the release and success of Toy Story. Jobs soon got even more lucky than before, with the recent unsuccessful years seen by Apple, and the high CEO turnover rate they had been experiencing, it only seemed logical for Apple to envelop its less successful competitor NeXt in order to attain a fresh perspective and edgy ideas. Jobs soon made his return to Apple as a development advisor. With this new position, Jobs began installing some of his people from NeXt into key roles within Apple, and the silent takeover began. Admittedly, the board willingly put Jobs back into power due to a lack of faith in their previous CEO and where he was taking the company, but it was Jobs utilization of self leadership amongst his closest colleagues along with a flawless dissemination of responsibility within his chain of command that landed him the respect necessary to regain company control. Jobs then proceeded to lay to rest his long term grudge with Bill Gates and Microsoft, landing a mutual partnership which resulted in the high soaring market price for both Apple stock and subsequently its products. Part of this success came from Jobs’ belief in the importance of distinct marketing and variance in product platforms, and consequently it helped the company to do better than it ever had before but it also took a serious toll on Jobs’ health; after working a steady twelve hour work day nearly seven days a week, Jobs said he could feel a serious lack in mental acuity and day to day physical comfort. And as we all know, if you can’t function then you cannot lead and you cannot make clear and concise decisions consistently. Jobs made several key changes within Apple that he felt would help to take the pressure off himself as well as the company. First, he brought in Jony Ive to head and develop Apple’s design principles, and almost simultaneously Jobs decided to offer a fully innovative and brand new concept to their product line in the iMac. Despite a counter intuitive stressful design process, the iMac ultimately did extremely well and Apple quickly gained an entirely new populous of customers. Jobs admitted that the success of this new product was almost entirely due to the edgy design options made to it by Jony Ive, exhibiting a rare form of character expected among good leaders, the placing of praise upon your own people rather than yourself. After Steve Jobs gained the full title of CEO he began making structural and professional changes to nearly every aspect of Apple; its inventory, development processes, subsidiary and supplier relations, almost everything imaginable. Jobs had an unprecedented vision for what he wanted Apple to be; a completely prestige priced media and tech conglomerate unmatched in its unique nature by anything else in the world. Jobs desired to control just about everything involved with the customer experience from software to hardware and even physical in store shopping experiences (Apple Store). This idea of streamlined single source complete customer to manufacturer dependence even manifested itself in the world of online music streaming with the creation of the iPod and the iTunes store, which even began to spread outward in its encompassment of different forms of controlled media. The iPod even became so popular, both through functionality and marketing, that the phrase “what’s on your iPod?” became a common cultural phrase. Through Jobs’ marketing influences and the cultural brand awareness that they were able to generate, Apple and and all of it’s products began to gain more and more support than ever before. Through all of this, Jobs was still having to juggle his work with Pixar right alongside his extensive hours at Apple. This came to a head when former Disney developer Jeffrey Katzenberg, whom Jobs completely despised, left Disney in order to form Dreamworks. Coupled with the fact that Disney now realized how central Pixar had become to the development and success of Disney movies, it was soon realized that the only smart move for both companies was to merge their leadership; bringing most of the Pixar developers over to fill very high ranking management positions. On a macro level, Jobs was experiencing victory after victory, but through the failure of several key Apple products he quickly learned the importance of cost efficacy, practicality and strategic development procedures. The biggest failure was yet to come though. In 2003, Jobs was diagnosed with cancer with which he received very little to no medical treatment at all until the cancer had nearly already killed him. Although Jobs did leave the world with a very inspiring message for young people, and he finally laid to rest his long term grudge against Bill Gates. Although it can be argued that Steve Jobs had done a lot of things wrong in his life, and was arguably not always the most ethical business man, what he did do well was learn from his mistakes, gave praise to those beneath him who helped him succeed, and constantly challenged the status quo; both internally within his companies and culturally. He operated on intuition and gut instinct, and his appreciation for creativity in a productive sense knew no bounds, and inarguably as a leader his utilization of those who worked with him whom he knew extremely well was the core reason that he was able to climb back up so high after having fallen so far.
Admittedly, normally I find very little interest in books or stories like this due simply to a lack of intellect on my part, but I couldn’t help but feel very strongly about the indirect lessons of leadership through character in this book. Though most examples of quality leadership are seen in things likes business, military or given small groups of individuals trying to complete a common goal, this was the first instance of cultural leadership on a macro scale that I myself have ever paid any kind of close attention to. Bryan Stevenson’s search for unbiased justice not only invokes the heightened awareness of cultural respect on honor similar to that of the nonfiction novel To Kill A Mockingbird, but also provides a real world glimpse at the tragedy of social discrimination and it’s sometimes absolute nature while demonstrating how something as nasty as judicial racism and corruption can be overturned in the popular eye by exhibiting true honor and character. Arguably there is nothing more noble than fighting for change on a systemic and cultural level through leadership by example of one’s own character. Walter McMillan, the African American male who faced certain death from a wrongful racist driven conviction of raping a white woman, represents those within any given system of hierarchy that find themselves on the bottom of the totem pole while receiving little to no support or empathy from those who rule above them that are driven by their own ego, biases, and inabilities to relate. Bryan Stevenson provides a perfect example of how a true leader sets the example of how one should conduct themselves within a given institution or system, and does so in such a way that he is able to demonstrate to those within that system how and why it is important to conduct one’s self with unbridled and untampered honesty and fairness. At one point he says, “I have discovered, deep in the hearts of many condemned and incarcerated people, the scattered traces of hope and humanity – seeds of restoration that come to astonishing life when nurtured by very simple interventions,” demonstrating through his own personal philosophy the importance of sound ethics and character to which he certainly leads by example; the end goal of course being providing justice a judgement to any and all no matter who they are or the color of their skin. Through the use of alternating chapter subjects, focused on the progression and difficulties of Walter’s case and examples of others lives who have been turned upside down or ruined by the very same system he is currently trying to fight, the reader slowly builds a full grasp on how extensive the history and potency of this racist judicial system truly is and allows the reader to fully appreciate the level of adversity both Mr. Stevenson and Mr. McMillan are facing. Despite the fact Mr. Stevenson is able to save Mr. McMillan from deathrow, he is ultimately unable to save him from the long lasting trauma brought on by his experiences which ultimately claim his life, Mr. Stevenson ends the book with an unarguable notion of optimism that cannot be matched; the idea that no matter how bad things may seem, or bad they may have gotten, that there is always room for hope in change and transformation socially so there may one day be a just mercy for all.
Throughout Steve Jobs’ life and career, most of his moves toward success through innovation came out of his anticipation of market trends based on consumer habits and preferences; the most notable of which was that of his development and design of the iPhone. Jobs put two and two together, he noticed the growing trend of utilizing cameras within cellphones and the potential social impact and then applied that same crossover technological concept to the merging of cell phones and media players; predominantly that of mp3 formatted music. Being a company who was known for producing one of the most popular portable media (music) devices known to man, it seemed fairly obvious to Jobs that it only made sense for his company to be the ones who made the first real step forward towards creating an all-in-one portable multimedia device that could also be used as a primary source of communication. Despite heavy doubts from critics within the tech market, the iPhone ironically became one of the most widely used multimedia devices in the world. Despite this success, Jobs once again was hit with another round of bad luck concerning his medical condition, having to undergo several serious medical procedures and losing an estimated forty pounds, it soon became very clear that he was quickly becoming a potential expendable asset to Apple’s executives. So rather than accepting his condition, cutting his loses and trying to spend more time relaxing with his family, he soon decided to undertake an even more extensive and time consuming project in creating the iPad; which eventually became one of Apple’s most iconic and top selling items. It would seem that the idea of a tablet computer had been rattling around Jobs’ brain since the early 2000’s, but he’d felt it best to try to perfect the necessary technology first through the development of the iPhone first. After having undergone a fairly rough initial marketing period for the iPad, eventually it’s popularity took off and soon third parties were writing applications for the iPad which only added to it’s levels of versatility and applicability which only added to it’s popularity within the market. As brilliant as the iPhone and iPad were, Jobs understood that their development would incite future battles between Apple and other particular companies; mainly that of Amazon with their creation of the Kindle e-reader, and Google with their development of the Android phone operating system which Jobs claimed was a completely stolen product. Eventually, Jobs was able to make some headway within the e-reader market/competition, but the battle between the IOS and Android operating systems would rage on throughout the rest of Jobs’ remaining life. Despite the inevitable nature of Jobs’ early death, he took on several more long term projects inside and outside the office in order to build a sense of defiance within himself and to provide a long term goal for himself and the company. In his free time, Jobs worked on designing and building a yacht for he and his family, and while at work he focused most of his efforts on creating both the iCloud mobile storage system as well as the blueprints and layout for the future Apple campus. These kinds of long term endeavors were what Jobs hoped would keep his mind away from dwelling on his sickness and looking forward to the future with a positive outlook. In the hopes of seeing his son graduate high school Jobs found new inspiration in beginning to turn his attention to the nature of education in our country, eventually meeting with Obama and several other tech CEO’s in order to discuss the importance of education and the current deficit of engineers, mathematicians and those from trade schools. Jobs hoped to empower mankind as a whole, and wished to supply the world with the correct tools it needed in order to remain forever moving forward. Eventually though, Jobs condition became so severe that he had to step down as acting CEO of Apple, turning the position over Tim Cook, and had to permanently step away from the world of business and tech. Shortly before Steve Jobs passed away, Apple was acknowledged as the most valuable tech company in the market, and it was almost all arguably due to the intense unrelenting nature of the man who helped to guide the tech conglomerate through the developmental stages of the 80’s and 90’s and into the resurging success of the early 2000’s. In the last excerpt from the book, Jobs openly acknowledges the interdependent nature of our species and our culture; pointing out that success on a social level never stems from the actions of just one individual but the accumulated webbed nature of the actions of many in the spirit of accomplishing a common goal. This quite beautifully and appropriately demonstrates the importance of an “all encompassing” respect and cohesion that must be present within the entire hierarchy of an organization or a society in order for it to effectively and efficiently accomplish it’s goals. From the top leadership all the way down to the lowest level subordinates, we must all understand exactly what it is we are trying to accomplish and why, and everyone must be on board in order for the mission to succeed.