Oscar Miranda Reyes
Looking back on your business and personal experience, do you have any stories to tell that contrast the “old” and the “new” stories of leadership as Wheatley, describes them? Have you practiced or been informed by either leadership approach?
Wheatley (2007) describes the old story of leadership as “a story of dominion and control, and all-encompassing materialism.” It can be explained by analogizing it to a machine; a lifeless object that does not have the capability to think, feel, or make decisions. It, the machine, functions quite like the old story of leadership by where there are many more managers (machines) than leaders. An ideology that she credits to Western culture, which believes organizations, can create processes that people will carry out in a machine-like manner. Wheatley (2007) states that “we would engineer it to do what we saw fit, and we would fix it through our engineering brilliance” (p. 17). Managers utilizing the “old” style of leadership will create processes and expect the people to follow the process exactly as is with little, if any, room for deviation from that process.
By contrast, the new story of leadership encourages creativity and deviation from the “status quo”. Wheatley (2007) further argues that, people never behave like machines and often will resist change or “add their own spin” to directions. In the new story “key human traits as uniqueness, free will, and creativity” are essential to the organizations long-term success. Wheatley argues that allowing creativity helps organizations find those innovative “breakthroughs” that lead to success for the business. The new story of leadership is a notion, by where leaders interject reason, emotion, and ingenuity. Qualities viewed favorably in the new story of leadership. When these qualities are encouraged, supported and properly merged with machine-like elements, you get a leadership style that functions much like a triple beam balance where the old and new can coexist in harmony where our humanness and mechanical like systems can produce more positive outcomes.
As Dubrin (2009) explained, there is a difference between a manager and a leader. Leaders inspire, share knowledge, and experiment; managers deliberate, control, and implement (Dubrin, 2009, p. 4). I have had the complex challenge of working in a department where a pilot program mixing both styles was implemented. The old way we entered answers from closed ended questions into a database. The new system asked open-ended questions which generated broad and wide-ranging answers many times requiring a subjective interpretation. The old system was easy, objective, and robotic like. It categorized the answers and was easily identifiable and measurable. This system was well supported by the old-timers (old leadership) in the department. It was efficient and quantifiable. The newbies recognized that although the old system was easier to work with it wasn’t a true representation of what the respondents wanted to convey. The new leadership gave permission to expand the data base allowing for many more interpretations including the catch-all category other. This was both good and bad; the information entered was more factual but at the same time was vast and incalculable. When it was time to present to the board there was a strong since of dissidence and ambiguity. They indirectly informed me on how important it is to connect the two leadership styles if at all possible in a step-phase, collaboration, implementation, and then a period to adjust, work out the kinks, and then move forward. It was a life lesson for me to better connect the two leadership styles. Combining the two could either move the organization into new territory or hinder the organization and stagnate it.
A great example of the contrast between “old' and “new”...