loren Eric Swanson: Transforming Leadership Quotes

Monday, November 28, 2005

Transforming Leadership Quotes

I finished Transforming Leadership by James MacGregor Burns (2003), for the second time...it was actually so thought-provoking I had to read it twice just to grasp what he was saying about this facinating concept. This is the first book I have read on the topic for a self-study class I am putting together around the broader topic of "Transformational Leadership." I'll need to do a review / reflection on this book but for now I'll use this as a holding place for quotes that I want to retain from this book that I typed on the plane to SNA--Orange County Airport.

“I believe leadership is not only a descriptive term but a prescriptive one, embracing a moral, even a passionate, dimension. Consider our common usage. We don’t call for good leadership—we expect, or at least hope, that it will be good. ‘Bad’ Leadership implies no leadership. I contend that there is nothing neutral about leadership-it is valued as a moral necessity. P. 2

“Summoned forth by human wants, the task of leadership is to accomplish some change in the world that responds to those wants. Its actions and achievements are measured by the supreme public values that themselves are the profoundest expressions of human wants: liberty and equality, justice and opportunity, the pursuit of happiness. P.3

“And if leadership is, as I believe, a moral undertaking, a response to the human wants expressed in public values, then surely its greatest task—the task, even, of global leadership—must be to respond to the billions of the world’s people in the direst want, people whose pursuits of happiness might begin with a little food or medicine, a pair of shoes, a school within walking distance. They might seek some respect and dignity, some understanding of the interlocked burdens and frustrations of poverty as they, the poor understand them. They might become followers of those who hear their wants and whose responsive leadership in turn empowers them, in the initial steps of a leadership process that might break the vicious circle of poverty. P.3

“Hence I would call for the protection and nourishing of happiness, for extending the opportunity to pursue happiness to all people, as the core agenda of transforming leadership.” P. 3

“The American philosopher Sidney Hook distinguished between the ‘eventful’ man who happened to be involved in an historic situation but without really determining its course, and the ‘event-making’ man whose ‘actions influenced subsequent developments along a quite different course than would have been followed if these actions had not been taken,’ actions that were’ the consequences of outstanding capacities of intelligence, will, and character rather than accidents of position.’” P. 11

“Historians of ideas have long noted the elements of simultaneity in the advent of theories and concepts. Thinkers taking different paths converge at almost the same moment on a problem and even on its solution.” P. 24

“Leaders take the initiative in mobilizing people for participation in the processes of change, encouraging a sense of collective identity and collective efficacy, which in turn brings stronger feelings of self-worth and self-efficacy, described by Bernard Bass as an enhanced ‘sense of ‘meaningfulness’ in their work and lives.’ By pursuing transformational change, people can transform themselves.” P. 26

“Transforming leaders define public values that embrace the supreme and enduring principles of a people. These values are the shaping ideas behind constitutions and laws and their interpretation. They are the essence of declarations of independence, revolutionary proclamations, momentous statements by leaders that go to the core meaning of events, that define what is at stake, such as the Gettysburg Address…Transforming values lie at the heart of transforming leadership, determining whether leadership indeed can be transforming.” P. 29

"A functioning democracy not only acknowledges that conflicts without end are woven into the fabric of human society and accommodates them but attempts to turn them to vital and progressive purpose. Antagonistic groups, or classes, oppose one another, accept defeat, and return to fight again for their values or interests in another election on another day. The test of a democracy is the acceptance of majority rule and minority rights. The majority's right to govern is matched and validated by the minority's right to oppose and struggle to replace it." P. 122"Where does leadership begin? Where change begins. Where does change begin? In my view, with the burgeoning in humans of powerful physical and psychological wants. Leadership is so intertwined with fundamental change, and change with the dynamics of wants and needs, as to make rather arbitrary any locating of origins in what is really a seamless web." P. 140
“Here perhaps is a missing link between inward-and outward-directed motivations, between ‘self’ and situation in individual and collective processes of change: the capacity to produce a final result of effect. In a work, it is efficacy.’ People strive to exercise control over events that affect their lives,’ psychologist Albert Bandura wrote in 1995. ‘ By exerting influence in spheres over which they can command some control, they are better able to realize desired futures and to forestall undesired ones…Inability to exter influence over things tht adversely affect one’s life breeds apprehension, apathy, or despair. The capability to produce valued outcomes and to prevent undesired ones, therefore, provides powerful incentives for the development and exercise of personal control.’
Nothing strengthens the motivational power of efficacy like sucdess. Persons with a high feeling of efficacy have great confidence in their ability to make changes, to remain committed to goals, to overcome difficulties and failures, to exercise control. Those with little conviction that they have the capacity to master their fate characteristically lack the motivation to try.” P. 150

“Transforming change transforms people and their situation.” P. 151

“What sets this intricate mobile of empowered motives into motion is the spark of creativity.” P. 151

"At its simplest, creative leadership begins when a person imagines a state of affairs not presently existing. this initial creative insight or spark is elaborated into a broader vision of change, possible ways of accomplishing it are conceived, and--in a fateful act of leadership--the vision is communicated to others. Because most ideas of significant change make some persons followers and others opponents, conflict arises. It is such conflicts that supply powerful motivation for transforming leadership and followership, fusing them into a dynamic force in pursuit of change." P. 153

“Still, the indispensable spark is supplied by the imagination. Few have expressed this idea, and its moral possibilities, more eloquently than Robert F. Kennedy, borrowing from George Bernard Shaw: ‘Some people see things as they are and say: why” I dream things that never were and say” why not?’” p. 153

What causes such eruptions of creativity? Perhaps when we try to account for cultures that engender creativity, the emphasis ought to be on the word culture—the cross-fertilization in a given place and time of individuals and their turns of mind and ambitions, of developments in education and knowledge techniques, of new ideas or the groping toward new ideas. Even more important is the interaction of creative people, and the opportunities for interaction—within and among families, at schools and in workplaces, in political and scientific and artistic groups and professional associations, and across entire societies. There are leaders and there are followers, and there are followers who become leaders. Newton wrote that, if he had seen farther, it was ‘by standing on the shoulders of Giants.’ In epochs of collective creative ferment, the uplift is mutual.” P 161

“Many are the stories of geniuses who were raised in supportive households, finding both intellectual stimulation and parental discipline at home. In some cases, though parents were more demanding than supportive, and even tyrannical. Yet stress and estrangement seem able to produce, or at least not suppress, creativity. One study found that ’75 percent of a group of 400 noted people of the twentieth century—novelists, playwrights, artists, scientists—had come from markedly troubled homes. Other studies suggested that parents of creative scientists had shown their children relatively little warmth or affection…. Writer Gore Vidal [wrote] ‘the protective love of two devoted parents ‘can absolutely destroy an artist.’” P. 162

“For creativity to become leadership, however, conceptual transformation is not enough. As scientists must go beyond ‘revolutions on paper’ and put their ideas to the test in a struggle to win acceptance by their peers, all the more so must creative leadership. Leadership is a social phenomenon, and leaders are ‘intimately tied to other people and the effects of their actions on them.’ According to Wolin, the groundbreaking political theorists were motivated b y ‘the ideal of an order subject to human control and one that could be transfigured through a combination of thought and action.’ They intended ‘not simply to alter the way men look at the world, but to alter the world.’ Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Marx—all considered their new ideas to be guides to healing their sick societies. They meant to lead.” P. 168

“As the leadership and ethics scholar Joanne Ciulla puts it, true empowerment gives people ‘the confidence, competence, freedom, and resources to act on their own judgments’ and ‘entails a distinct set of moral understandings and commitments between leaders and followers.’” P. 184

What transformational leaders do, sociologist Boas Shamir and his colleagues have found, is to raise ‘the intrinsic value of effort and goals by linking them to valued aspects of the followers; self-concept, thus harnessing the motivational forces of self-expression, self-consistency, specific mission-related self-efficacy, generalized self-esteem and self-worth.’ Or in leadership scholar Jane M. Howell’s terms, ‘socialized leaders’ recognize followers’ needs, respect their autonomy, and engage them, while ‘personalized leaders’ dominate followers and ignore their needs except when necessary to advance their own ambitions.” P. 184
“…instead of identifying individual actors simply as leaders or simply as followers, we see the whose process as a system in which the function of leadership is palpable and central but the actors move in and out of leader and follower roles. At this crucial point we are no longer seeing individual leaders; rather we see leadership as the basic process of social change, of causation in a community, an organization, a nation—perhaps even the globe.” P. 185

“The clues to the mystery of leadership lie in a potent equation: embattled values grounded in real wants, invigorated by conflict, empower leaders and activated followers to fashion deep and comprehensive change in the lives of people. The acid test of this empowerment is whether the change is lasting or whether it is temporary and even reversible. Deep and durable change, guided and measured by values, is the ultimat purpose of transforming leadership, and constitutes both its practical impact and its moral justification. And that is the power of values.” P. 213

“The pursuit of happiness must be our touchstone. As means and end, it embodies the other transforming values—order, liberty, equality, justice, community. It encompasses the highest potentialities for transformation both in people’s situations and in themselves. And it epitomizes, as perhaps no other phrase, what it is that many in this world—the millions, billions—most profoundly lack: the opportunity to shape and direct the quality and meaning of their own lives. For them—the people—Leadership is the X factor, potentially the indispensable discipline.” P. 214

“Interaction begins when the innovator rallies support to carry out the change he intends. Innovators have a triple burden: they must break with the inheritors among whom they may have been numbered; they must mobilize followers by appealing to their wants and hopes and other motivations; they must adapt their intentions to those of would-be followers without sacrificing their essential goal.” P.221

“Passives become actives, followers become leaders, workers and writers become revolutionaries.” P 221

“Great plans must be loose at the joints, in fact a process of planning and replanning.” P. 221


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