THE POTENTIAL REVOLUTION IN LEADERSHIP
A. Cohen, PhD
leadership techniques are well established and have changed little since
antiquity. The principles Gideon used to lead the Israelites to victory
against the Midianites, or Sun Tzu's
recommendations in The Art of Wai,
2300 years ago, differ little from what we use in business today.
military's early contribution to leadership
is hardly surprising. Leading is crucial
for goal achievement in battle. This is because of all human endeavors, combat
alone involves the simultaneous presence
of the most severe of situational variables. These include generous doses
of high risk and uncertainty, hardship,
low compensation, and lack of security. Leadership in business is a new innovation.
Sun Tzu wrote on leadership in
400 B.C., but most business writers on leadership
are still around today. Until this century, few in business considered leadership
very important. Employees did
what the boss instructed them to do. If
not, they didn't get paid. Scrooge did not
have to worry about his leadership techniques to get Bob Crachett to clerk properly.
Even early scientific managers like
Frederick Taylor focused not on leadership,
but on motivation based on an
employee's compensated self-interest.
late, business leadership borrows
heavily from ideas developed by the
military. The search for scientific weapons
during World War II led the U.S.
Government to sponsor major social science
studies. It also formed the National
Research Council made up of leading
academics and researchers from major
universities around the country.
mission was to exploit scientific knowledge
for practical application to the
war. One committee of the council which
focused on psychology succeeded in
developing Psychology for the Fighting
practical guide included several chapters on leadership derived from
the latest research at the time. This work
got many scientists interested in the
subject and spawned numerous leadership
studies at various universities after
the war. Many theories and techniques
came from these early leadership institutes.
Although their output included
insights and distinctions not previously
made, they yielded few, if any,
results of a revolutionary nature.
example, the well known Blake-Mouton
Managerial Grid, once considered
a breakthrough technique, suggests that more effective managers have high
concern for both production and people. Predating
the research which led to the development
of the grid is the fundamental
principle of military leadership. This is
that the leader must make the mission (production)
his first concern, the welfare of
his subordinates next, and himself last.
This priority implies high concern for
both production and people, since both must be considered before self. It is likely
this military model is even more descriptive
of the effective leader than the
grid, since it introduces the notion of priorities,
which the grid does not.
is nothing inherently wrong with
Grid, Management by
Objectives, Management By Wandering
Around, Total Quality Management, or other leadership concepts evolving from
these postwar research inputs. All make
significant contributions to how we
understand and practice leadership in business. But again, these works are not
revolutionary. The basic techniques for leading
remain the same.
Changing Leadership Techniques
after thousands of years, leadership is changing. It is changing not because
people or the work place are changing, although
both are, but because of a fantastic explosion in psychological technology.
This technology represents the cutting
edge—the first real changes in the way leadership may be practiced in
several millennia. Let me give you just a few
examples of what I am talking about.
wondered what caused animal
mothers to know to take care of their newborn. No one explains to a mother
cat, dog, mouse, or elephant that what
comes out of their body isn't dangerous.
They could just as easy kill their infants as protect them. Yet not only do
animal mothers know to feed and care for their young, but they will defend
them to the death. We call this behavior instinctive,
but until recently we had no idea
what triggered it.
working with mother turkeys
discovered the biological signal that
told the mother to feed and protect. It
was the "cheep-cheep" sound baby turkeys make. With no sound, the
mother turkey ignored or even killed her offspring. To confirm this,
the cheep-cheep sound and played
it in a tape recorder buried in a
polecat. The polecat is one of a wild
turkey's worst natural enemies. Without the tape recorder, the mother turkey
instantly ripped the stuffed animal
to threads. However, when the researchers
added the sound of the turkey chick,
the mother attempted to feed the stuffed
psychologist Ellen Langer wondered
whether similar sounds triggered behavior in man. Amazingly, she discovered
that they did. In one experiment,
she asked people waiting to use an electronic
copier in a library to surrender their positions in line. She made this
request in three different ways. The first was
simply to ask: "Excuse me. I have five
pages. May I use the Xerox machine?"
Sixty percent complied. The second
was to give a good reason: "Excuse
me. I have five pages. May I use the Xerox
machine because I'm in a rush?" Now ninety-four percent went along. If
left at that, Langer might have concluded that the key was to give a viable
as "because I'm in a rush" to gain compliance.
But then she made the request
in a third way. The third way was not
to give a reason that made any sense, but to continue to use the word "because."
Asked researcher Langer:
me. I have five pages. May I use the
Xerox machine because I have to make
copies?" The percentage that stepped aside was almost identical as when
a good reason was given—93 percent!
Dr. Langer concluded that the word "because"
was the equivalent of the cheep-cheep sound to the mother turkey. Something in
the human brain makes us obey
the idea represented by this sound, even
if the reason that followed the word made
no sense at all.3
is the relevancy of this discovery for leadership? Certain words universally
act as an "open sesame" for getting followers
to obey a leader's wishes, without
the brain's analyzing the request fully.
The leader will only need to use the right words. Maybe you have intuitively
recognized this in the past. Certain
words you use in influencing others are
very effective; others less so. Have you
ever been influenced by someone to do something you would not normally agree
to at all? This may be how this person
was effective in gaining your agreement
difference now is that scientists can equip you with a battery of "right words"
to attain different actions. Others will
happily comply, having no more choice
then the mother turkey coddling the
me give you another example. People perceive certain individuals as being charismatic. New research proves that not only is what constitutes
charisma measurable, but that you can
acquire charisma if you have the desire to do so. There is evidence
that John F. Kennedy intentionally set out to acquire
charisma after a visit with Hollywood stars when
he was a teenager.4
Dr. Ronald E. Riggio at
California State University, Fullerton has already developed a charisma
test instrument that measures six dimensions of social skill that his research associates with charisma. These are: emotional expressivity, emotional
sensitivity, emotional control, social expressivity, social sensitivity, and
social control. After taking the test and determining
your strengths and weaknesses, you can correct your deficiencies through specific exercises.
Others may be charismatic through accidental acquisition of one or more of
these social skill dimensions, hi the future, you can acquire the same charisma by exercising as you would exercise a muscle.5
Back in the mid-1970s, John
Grinder, a linguistics professor, and Richard Bandler, a mathematics major at the University
of California, Santa Cruz worked together on a special project. The result was the identification of a series of psychological
technologies, many of which have potential in
leadership. They called these technologies neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP. Essentially NLP has to do with how we communicate
with our own brain. The technologies can be extremely powerful
in influencing others.
For example, one of the influence strategies I found
to be particularly important in leadership in a variety of situations is rapport. Many studies have shown that we are willing to do things for people we like and are in rapport with that we would not do for others. The question
is how do you get in rapport? The traditional way is to find
something in common. We can get in rapport if we graduated from the same
school, belong to the same club, or have the same hobby.
But what if we don't have any of these or
other things in common? NLP researchers discovered that a process called
mirroring works even faster for building
rapport than commonalties. Mirroring simply requires
matching certain behaviors: voice tone and tempo, breathing, body movements,
and body postures. Of course, you can't mirror
so incongruently as to appear to mimic— that would break rapport instantly. But, mirroring done subtly works. It is now possible to influence others through gaining rapport almost
Use of Deception
these new techniques manipulative? There
seems little doubt that they are. Are
they ethical? I don't know the answer to this. Many effective leaders use deception
as an influence strategy in leading.
Most find it acceptable if the leader
is using it to accomplish a critical mission, or if the deception is in others
the leader himself.
the Civil War, General Grant planned
the first combined land-sea attack
against Fort Donnelson. The attack
started while he was absent. Things went awry, and as Grant rode up, his
entire right flank was collapsing under pressure
of a massive Confederate counter
attack. Union troops were becoming totally
demoralized. Without hesitation,
drew his sword and rode around the
battlefield shouting, "Come on boys and
fill your cartridge boxes quick. The enemy
is trying to get away on the right, and
must not be permitted to do so." Grant's statement was far from the truth.
The Confederate forces were not trying to get away. They were attacking and he
knew it. But Grant's deception helped his troops to regain control and win the
battle. Without this manipulative tactic he probably would have failed in
his mission, and his troops would have
suffered far higher casualties.
used for the leader's personal interests,
deception is always unethical and unacceptable.
However, in this and similar
situations, many leaders would call Grant's
new leadership technologies are far
more powerful, and thus an even greater
danger for abuse is possible. Are
inherently unethical and therefore unusable
or are there circumstances when they should be used? Perhaps it is this
uncertainty, not science, which may define
the use of these technologies among ethical practitioners. As a result, whether
the potential revolution will become
an actual revolution as we move toward the dawning of a new century remains
to be seen. •
National Research Council with the collaboration of
the Science Service, "Psychology for the Fighting Man,"
2nd ed., Infantry lownal, Penguin Books, Washington,
Robert B. Cialdini, Influence: The New Psychology
of Modern Persuasion, Quill,
P. Collier, and D. Horowitz, The Kennedy*, Summit
Books, New York, 1984, 4.
Ronald E. Riggio, The Charisma Quotient, Dodd, Mead
&. Company, New York, 1987.