Leadership as Force Field Alignment

Birds flying around earth

Did you know that birds navigate by sensing the magnetic force fields surrounding the earth?  Two researchers at Baylor College of Medicine recently recently discovered this fact, and the implications for the natural world are considerable.  That got me to thinking about the social world – what if those in leadership positions could learn to navigate by a clear force field?  In other words, what if they could learn follow their own true north and enable others to do so as well?  The metaphor of a moral compass seems much more real within this context.

John Dunning and other prominent International business scholars argue that the current moral ecology of multinational firms is limiting the benefits of globalization.  As a result, they call for a new moral ecology for multinational managers in order to address the attacks on globalization.  Gary Hamel, the world renowned management consultant, argues that we need a radical shift in values practiced in the C-suite, whereby the business world experiences a revolutionary moral renaissance .  And Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner note that most businesses lack an inspiring vision, so it rarely is a force for good. 

I personally believe that most managers are amoral because most folks in business are not given to deep reflection (being action oriented), and economics and business is often taught and written about as a “values-neutral” arena.  Whatever the cause, this state of affairs encourages many within today’s organizations  to be highly influenced by the dominant force fields (i.e., prevailing morals and ethics) operating in their firms, industries, and overall society.  If this is true, then managers in upper echelon leadership positions have an even more pressing duty to clarify their personal values and recognize that the firm exists to serve society, not the other way around. 

Unfortunately, most businesses and business schools fail to understand the value-laden nature of business.  As a result, leadership is taught to be a set of skills, which ignore the central role of character.  Thus, my first book that I wrote dealt the the essential role of character when selecting, developing, and evaluating leaders.  The title of the book is: “The Leader’s Shadow: Exploring and Developing Executive Character” and it was published by Sage Publications.  While this book was written for an academic audience and the writing style is stilted, the insights are as relevant today as when it was first published.  In sum, could a morally-refined character for those in leadership positions be the new force field that almost all organizations need today?  I think so.

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