Charisma, Culture and Performance


Abstract:  Charisma Culture and Performance

The paper explores the relationship between charismatic leadership, national culture and organizational performance based on a review of relevant literature and proposes hypotheses on the nature of the relationships in the Jamaican context as a basis for further study.

Beginning with the concept of charismatic authority or leadership as first presented by Max Weber in his essay, The Three Types of Legitimate Rule, and ending with the transformational leadership constructs of Idealized influence, attributed and behavioral, as developed by Bernard M. Bass, Bruce J. Avolio in a series of books and articles, the paper synthesizes the literature on charismatic leadership to give a clear assessment of its impact on follower and ultimately organizational performance.  Importantly, the ethical dimensions of charismatic leadership and its classification as either authentic or pseudo is also presented.

The paper then considers the moderating effect of national culture on the impact of charismatic leadership on follower and organizational performance.  Possible mediating effects of national culture are examined from the theoretical framework developed by Geert Hofstede who has provided extensive data supporting four classifications of national culture; power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism and masculine-feminine.  The fact of cultural differences in how management and leadership is viewed is explained through Implicit Leadership Theory (ILT) which contends that people’s underlying beliefs and assumptions influence how followers may assess leadership style.  Developing the interplay between charismatic leadership, national culture and organizational performance, the paper includes a review of the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness research project (GLOBE) which builds on the work of Hofstede and Implicit Leadership Theory to derive a Culturally Endorsed Implicitly Leadership Theory (CLT).  Among the six leadership dimensions identified by the GLOBE study is charismatic/leadership.

A hypothesis is presented which proposes the possible impact of charismatic leadership on follower and ultimately organizational performance within the context of the Jamaican cultural disposition towards the charismatic leadership style.  A study is then proposed to test the hypothesis.




Presented by: N. Christian Stokes

PhD Candidate:  Economic Development Policy

The Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES)

University of the West Indies, Mona Campus


  • Aristotle (trans., 1954) In the Rhetoric:
    • Leader must gain the confidence of her followers by using creative rhetorical means (i.e., charismatic and transformational),
    • The Rhetorical means include:
      • Rousing follower emotions (the “pathos”),
      • Providing a moral perspective via her personal character (“ethos”), and
      • Using reasoned argument (“logos”).
    • Weber
      • Max Weber (1947) normally credited with developing the term “charisma” as used in leadership theory today
      • “The three types of legitimate rule”, Published posthumously in 1958
      • Three types of legitimate authority:
        • Traditional
        • Charismatic, and
        • Legal-rational authority
      • Charismatic leadership arises “in times of psychic, physical, economic, ethical, religious, [or] political distress” (Weber, 1968)
  • Etzioni (1964)
    • Three types of power:
      • physical power, entailing the use of threats or coercion;
      • material power, entailing the use of rewards; and
      • symbolic (charismatic) power, entailing the use of normative or social power
    • Symbolic (charismatic) power leads to greater commitment and less alienation than physical or material power
  • Downton (1973)
  • Proposed a theory of transactional, charismatic, and inspirational leadership in the context of the rebel political leader.
  • Contractual relationship between leader and follower vs charismatic leadership
  • Charismatic Leaders
    • Transcendental ideals and authority that facilitate the followers’ identification with the leader
    • Commitment and trust augmented by inspirational leadership
    • Persuasive – followers invest in and make sacrifices toward the identified ideals,
    • Gives followers a sense of purpose, and
    • Creates meaning for actions distinct from the charismatic appeal
  • Inspirational leadership independent of charismatic leadership; according to Downton (1973), inspirational leadership does not foster follower dependence on the leader. Rather, “inspirational commitment is always contingent on the leader’s continuing symbolic presentation of the follower’s world view”
  • House (1977)
  • Presented an integrated theoretical framework and testable proposition to explain the behavior of charismatic leaders:
    • Focused on the psychological impact of charismatic leaders on followers.
    • Referred to charismatic leaders as having the necessary persuasive skills to influence others
    • Described the personal characteristics of charismatic leaders
    • Suggested that individual differences of charismatic leaders might be measurable
    • Proposed that the basis for the charismatic appeal is the emotional interaction that occurs between followers and their leader
  • Charismatic leaders are those “who by force of their personal abilities are capable of having profound and extraordinary effects on followers”
  • Behaviors:
    • Display confidence in their own abilities and in their followers,
    • Set high expectations for themselves and their followers, and
    • Show confidence that these expectations can be achieved.
    • Display a high degree of self-confidence, pro-social assertiveness (dominance), and moral conviction.
    • Model what they expect their followers to do, exemplify the struggle by self-sacrifice, and
    • Engage in image-building and self-promotion actions to come across as powerful and competent.
  • Results
    • These leaders become role models and objects of identification of followers,
    • Followers emulate their leader’s ideals and values and are enthusiastically inspired and motivated to reach outstanding accomplishments
  • Burns (1978)
    • Defined leadership as “inducing followers to act for certain goals that represent the values and the motivations—the wants and needs, the aspirations and expectations—of both leaders and followers
    • The leader–follower interaction was either:
      • Transactional leadership, which entailed a relationship based on the exchange of valued items, whether political, economic, or emotional; or
      • Transforming leadership, where the motivation, morality, and ethical aspirations of both the leader and followers are raised.
    • Transforming leadership
      • Raised the consciousness of followers for what is important, especially with regard to moral and ethical implications, and make them transcend their self-interest for that of the greater good
      • Focused on transcendent and far-reaching goals and ideals—has a greater effect on followers and collectives as compared to
    • Transactional leadership
      • Focused on promoting self-interest and is thus limited in scope and impact
      • Opposing ends of a spectrum – one or the other
  • Bass’s (1985)
  • Transformational-transactional theory includes both elements of:
    • “New leadership” (i.e., charisma, vision, and the like) and
    • “Old leadership” (i.e., transactional leadership behavior focused on role and task requirements).
  • Bass theory in its current form (Avolio & Bass, 1991; Bass & Avolio, 1997). Leadership constructs:
  • Transformational:
    • idealized influence attributes, (charisma)
    • idealized influence behaviors, (charisma)
    • inspirational motivation,
    • intellectual stimulation, and
    • individualized consideration
  • Transactional
    • contingent rewards,
    • management-by-exception active, and
  • Passive Avoidant Leadership
  • Charisma and Authentic Transformational Leadership
    • Howell and Avolio (1995) Charisma itself was value neutral and that effective charismatic leaders can vary widely in their ethical standards
    • Leaders could only be truly charismatic if their leadership resulted in a positive transformation within their organization.
    • Authentic and pseudo transformational leaders may exhibit the same behaviors but the underlying values, morals and intentions may be vastly different. Noticeably lacking in the behavior of pseudo transformational leaders is their lack of individualized consideration.

Cultural Considerations

  • Geert Hofstede (1980) – Geert Hofstede, widely regarded as the foremost expert on national cultures, produced Cultures’ Consequencies (1980)
    • Four classifications of national culture;
      • power distance,
      • uncertainty avoidance,
      • individualism-collectivism and
      • masculine-feminine
  • Hofstede (1991) added a fifth dimension – long term orientation.
  • Jamaica
  • Power distance
    • This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal – it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us.
    • Jamaica scores low on this dimension (score of 45). Features:
      • Independent, hierarchy for convenience only, equal rights, superiors accessible, coaching leader, management facilitates and empowers, Power is decentralized and managers count on the experience of their team members, Employees expect to be consulted, Control is disliked and attitude towards managers are informal and on first name basis. Communication is direct and participative
  • Individualism
    • The fundamental issue addressed by this dimension is the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. It has to do with whether people´s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “We”.
    • Jamaica, with a score of 39. Features:
      • Considered a collectivistic society, Close long-term commitment to the member ‘group’ paramount over-rides most other societal rules and regulations, Strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group, Offence leads to shame and loss of face, Employer/employee relationships are perceived in moral terms, Hiring and promotion decisions take account of the employee’s in-group, Management is the management of groups.
  • Masculinity / Femininity
    • A high score (masculine) on this dimension indicates that the society will be driven by competition, achievement and success, with success being defined by the winner / best in field – a value system that starts in school and continues to impact organisational behaviour.
    • A low score (feminine) on the dimension means that the dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life. A feminine society is one where quality of life is the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable.
    • Jamaica scores 68. Features:
      • A masculine society, People “live in order to work”, Managers are expected to be decisive and assertive, Emphasis is on equity, competition and performance Conflicts are resolved by fighting them out.
  • Uncertainty avoidance
    • The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways. The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these is reflected in the UAI score.
    • Jamaica scores 13. Features:
      • Low preference for avoiding uncertainty, Maintain a relaxed attitude in which practice counts more than principlesDeviance from the norm is more easily tolerated
      • People believe there should be no more rules than are necessary and if they are ambiguous or do not work they should be abandoned or changed
      • Schedules are flexible,
      • Hard work is undertaken when necessary but not for its own sake, precision and punctuality do not come naturally, innovation is not seen as threatening.
  • Long term orientation
    • The long term orientation dimension is closely related to the teachings of Confucius and can be interpreted as dealing with society’s search for virtue, the extent to which a society shows a pragmatic future-oriented perspective rather than a conventional historical short-term point of view.
    • So far there are no scores for Jamaica on this dimension.

How effective would charismatic leadership be in this culture?.

Culture and Organizational Performance

  • The impact of culture on organizational operations and leadership may be analyzed at three different levels (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 1997)
    • National culture,
    • Organizational culture and
    • Professional culture.
  • We will concern ourselves here with national and organizational culture.
    • National culture has been defined by Geert Hofstede (1991) as “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others”
    • Hofstede (1998) defined organizational culture as ‘the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one organisation from another’. While many organizational cultures may exist within a single national culture, it is generally accepted that national culture has a higher degree of influence at the individual level than does organizational culture.

Impact of Culture on Leadership

  • In reviewing the existing literature on leadership it is important to acknowledge that the practice of leadership is influenced by the culture in which leadership is practiced (Dorfman and Howell, 1997)
  • .Yokochi (1989) found that contingent reward is more implicit in Japan than in the US.
  • The GLOBE project (Den Hartog and House, 1999) investigated transformational leadership in 64 nations and identified attributes associated with charismatic/transformational leadership that are universally applicable.
    • The most important of these attributes were:
    • Motive arouser, foresight, encouraging, communicative, trustworthy, dynamic, positive, confidence builder and motivational
  • Shahin and Wright (2004) tested Bass and Avolio’s (1994) assertions in the context of Egypt. Studying employees of 10 different banks, the researchers found that only 3 of the 7 US ideal leadership factors corresponded with those in Egypt.  The other four factors appeared unique to Egypt though they could be extended to the greater Middle East.
    • The findings suggest that transactional and transformational leadership as currently configured may not be applicable in non-western cultures. These findings were supported by Casimir, Waldman, Bartam and Yang (2006) in their study of transactional and transformational leadership in China and Australia.
    • Their results indicated that transformational leadership significantly predicted performance and trust in the Australian population, while only predicting trust, and not performance in the Chinese population. Transactional leadership did not predict trust or performance in either population. This is another indication that these theories may not be as universal as proposed.
  • Contrary to Casimir et al’s findings, Walumbwa, Lawler, and Avolio (2007) compared data from China, India, Kenya, and the U.S. and found that as long as the appropriate style of leadership (either transactional or transformational) is used in the correct country, followers will respond positively.
  • Bass and Avolio (2004) therefore found location to be a contingent issue in the leader follower relationship. The researchers looked specifically at individualism versus collectivism as a cultural contingency.  They concluded that collectivist cultures provide a responsive environment for transformational leaders and found that this leadership style was positively related to efficacy beliefs, job satisfaction, and commitment.
  • Corporate culture can also have an impact on leadership style. Bass and Avolio (1993) observe that while leaders play a role in fashioning corporate culture, corporate culture can itself influence leadership style and efficacy.  A new leader, for example, in an environment that favors strict adherence to policies, procedures, and processes, may in order to be effective, adapt a transactional approach and over time move towards a transformational style in order to effect change in the culture.
  • Hofstede (1980 and 1983) studied the interaction of culture, leadership, motivation and organization with leadership style and effectiveness. Individualism and power distance were shown to have the greatest impact on leadership.
  • Cultures with high power distance are more tolerant of centralization and autocratic leadership while those with low power distance are more inclined to decentralization and participative leadership.
  • Yeung and Ready (1995) global leadership study found that that less than 40 percent of leadership practices valued in the United States business culture were also valued in Korea.
  • Cultural differences could have a significant impact on the efficacy of one transformational or transactional leadership. Transformational leadership relies on participation, open communication and loyalty (Avolio and Bass, 2004) and as such may meet resistance in high power distance cultures, and high individualism cultures where a more directive style is expected and accepted (Hofstede, 1983).  Similarly, a transactional leadership style may not be well accepted in low power distance, participative cultures (Hofstede).
  • Leader effectiveness relies substantially on the ability to motivate followers to perform. Cultural dimensions impacting motivation are:
    • individualism-collectivism,
    • uncertainty avoidance, and
    • masculinity-femininity (Hofstede, 1980).

Suggested Research – Charisma, Culture and Performance in Jamaica

  • Examine:
  • National culture response to Charismatic leadership
    • Which dimensions of culture enhance or reduce the efficacy of charismatic leadership
  • Organizational culture response to charismatic leadership
    • Which dimensions of culture enhance or reduce the efficacy of charismatic leadership
    • Impact of normative or chaotic conditions
    • Charisma vs Inspirational leadership
    • Impact of dissolution of charismatic power
    • Efficacy of bureaucratic vs charismatic power and leadership


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Character, Circumstances and Destiny

Chairman; Head Table parents, graduates, friends, good afternoon.

I thank Principal Whytely for his kind invitation and the opportunity to speak here today.  I have to say that I have thought about what to say with great care.  Addressing young minds is more like carving your initials into a tree than writing your name on a blackboard.  Now I am not even sure if you use blackboards anymore but I know that the day’s lessons, written with great care on a blackboard can be easily removed by the idlest of passersby.   But an etching on the bark of a tree can last for generations.

I assume, that you do not have the cynicism to dismiss as useless what I may have to say even before hearing it and that you have now near its peak a mind that wants to hear, assess, maybe learn, and perhaps even change.  I ask you to open for me, that fertile mind as I intend more to etch on your consciousness thoughts and ideas which I hope cannot be so easily removed as writing on a blackboard but which may somewhere, in intended, or unintended places leave nuggets that may be of some value on this great journey of life which lies before you.  I depend on the truth of Oliver Holmes’ words ‘A mind, once expanded by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions’.

Before making my main points I ask each of you to look around you, to your left and to your right, in front and behind, the persons you see will be your most trusted friends for the rest of your lives.  There is a trust that develops when you have nothing, that you will lose as you move through life, and begin to have things, begin to have influence, and therefore begin to question motives of those who would be your friends.  Those who are your friends when you are unsure as you are now, without anything to give in return but friendship itself, and who accept you with pimples, and bad fitting clothes and personal knowledge of your awkward maturing moments will be your best friends from henceforth.  Open your homes your hearts and whatever doors you can for these people as you go forward.  Take time to stop and say hello to them on the highways and byways of life.  Nurture and value these relationships.  They are hard to find.  Trust me on this – Good fren betta than pocket money.


I share with you therefore, and hold you to this, the words of Jesus in John 15:12.  This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.


As you leave these gates, perhaps for the last time for many of you, you do not know what you will encounter, you will feel unsure, many will have dreams and goals that you have no idea how you will achieve.  Life is neither straight forward, nor straight up, nor straight down.  It is a little bit of everything.  Where you end up is entirely up to you.  It’s important that you understand this and know it to the very core of your being.  It does not depend on where you were born, who your parents are, or where you went to school.  It depends completely and totally on you.

Let me share with you a case to make my point.  I listened to an interview with a man named Mohed Altrad, recently.  He started the interview by saying,’ I don’t know where I was born exactly, nor the day, nor the year nor the month’.  Mohed started life in a Bedouin tribe roaming the deserts of Syria.  His father was the head of the tribe.  He did not get to know his father though.  His father actually raped his mother twice, when she was only thirteen years old.  The first time she got pregnant with Mohed’s older brother and the second to Mohed himself.  His older brother was killed by his father and his mother died giving birth to him.  He was taken in by his grandmother who didn’t want him to go to school, advising him instead to learn to be a Shepherd that he did not need to go to school to learn how to be a good shepherd.  He knew intuitively that he did not want to be a Shepherd, that he wanted something else for himself.  He got up early in the morning every week day and snuck off to school, without shoes, without a uniform, just a simple cotton rag wrapped around his waist.  Mohed related – everyday when he came back from school, he had what he called ‘a terrible sanction’ from his grandmother.  In other words, beating.  He describes his so called school as a small building with a lot of holes in it.  He was not registered in the school so he looked through the holes from outside at the blackboard to learn.  The teacher at the school, after seeing him outside for months, committed to learning, invited him in to sit.  Before too long he proved to be one of the best students in the school.  Not only because he was bright, but because he was motivated to learn, to improve himself.  Tired from getting up early, sore from the beatings, he sat among the sheep and studied after classes were done. ‘Life in the desert he said’ has its own rules’. One of those rules was that if you are poor, if you are at the edge of the tribe, you have no rights.  One of the rights you don’t have is to be first in the class, which he was.  So since he was audacious enough to come first in the class, his fellow students decided to teach him a lesson.  So they dug a hole in the desert and threw him in it.  That he described as a Terrible moment in his life.  But he survived, he climbed out of the hole and kept climbing in life.

Hi grandmother died and again he was alone and faced the terror of the unknown.  One of the members of his tribes was married but could have no children so he adopted Mohed and gave him a couple of meals a day.  Eventually he won a scholarship to France where he continued to struggle and eventually started his own business.

Over the years he built a multi-billion dollar business and on June 7, 2015 He was chosen as the World Entrepreneur of the year at an event in Monte Carlo. A Bedouin reject turned Billionaire Philanthropist.

He said at the function “My story should tell anyone that you can change your destiny,”


Let me share with you a few important lessons from this one man’s experience, an experience which has been told in many versions from the story of Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers to stories that are here today, among you, thought of, experienced but yet untold.  It is part of the human experience.


Where you are from is not as important as what you are here to do.  Mohet was from a backward forgotten desert in Arabia yet he rose to be World Entrepreneur of the year, Jamaica can barely be seen on a globe, a spot, a speck, yet we have produced the world’s best musicians, artists, activists and sports men – from Garvey to Marley, Nanny to Shelly, we have given to the world leaders and achievers beyond what our size would suggest.  Do not say to yourself, I am only from here, therefore I cannot reach over there.  Here is yours, and there can be yours too.  Indeed the world is yours, grasp it with both hands and shape it.  You belong.  You are important, you matter.  Never forget that.  Again I turn to the book of John.

When told by Philip that he had found the one Moses wrote about in the law, Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph.  Nathaniel responded ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip said to him, Come and see.

The savior himself came from a place that people regarded as backward, Nazareth, often described as a backwater in the Roman empire, yet he was as John described the Lamb of God, Come to take away the sins of the world

Where you are from is not as important as what you are here to do.

The second learning I want to leave with you is that character matters more than circumstances.  Who you are as a person, to your core, is more important than the circumstances you find yourself in.  Mohed found himself, poor, abused and forsaken, destined to be a shepherd and live out his days in the deserts of Syria.  Those were his circumstances, but not his destiny.  That was not who he was.  From the foundation of his character he set goals, had dreams, persevered and suffered, he took his destiny upon himself and did not allow circumstances to define him.  Think of this for me.  Think on it in your own life now, and remember it for the circumstances you will find yourself in repeatedly through life.  You will always face challenges, great and small, it is an inextricable part of the human experience.  But your life’s rudder is in who you are.  And by the way, to be clear, character is as important, if not more important when you have success than when you have failure.  I have seen many a decent young man of strong moral bearing, lose his way because he had become financially successful and the lures and temptations of the world call his name.  Character is important.  It is not easy, some days are better than others, it’s not perfection its practice, list your Principles, practice them, live by them.  Learn to forgive yourself.  Learn to be gentle with yourself.  Learn to start over with yourself.

Like Joseph in Potiphar’s house, know when to leave your cloak and run.  You may pay a price, you may suffer, but God has a plan for each of you and God knows best.

The third learning I want to leave with you follows on this.  Looking back, Mohed could see where his suffering led to his success but it was not evident in the midst of his suffering, all he saw and felt was pain.  As the founder of Apple, Steve Job’s said in a commencement speech, ‘We cannot connect the dots going forward, only looking back.’  It’s hard to see where suffering is part of God’s plan for you.  To you it’s only suffering.  Consider Mohed, the troubles that caused the man who adopted him not to be able to have children, was a big problem for the man and his wife but it was part of God’s plan for Mohed.  Later when he wanted to be an Air Force Pilot, the Air Force stopped taking in new recruits, his option was to go to France to do anything he could find, so dejected he went, speaking not a word of French, but it was from France that he built his business empire.  He could not have known this as he slept cold and hungry in meagre accommodations he was afforded.

How would Joseph have known, as he lay in a pit that his brother’s dug for him, that this was part of a plan not only for himself but for an entire nation, Israel.  How would he have known that the path to becoming chief administrator for Egypt led through a dungeon?  He could not know, he could only have faith that some good thing would come from all that he endured.  That all things work together for the good of them that serve God.

As you take on this great adventure of life, there will be times you will wonder, why me lord, you will feel stagnated, there will be times when nothing seems to be working in your favor, remember you are only on one page of a very long book, have faith, in yourself and in God, that he has written for your life a grand and beautiful story.  Enjoy every moment of the ride.  It’s is your life, it’s your gift, the greatest gift you will ever receive.

The world lies before you, the journey lies before you, with strong character and sure faith, strike out with all the enthusiasm and optimism of youth, make your dent in the universe, make yourself better, make your family better, make your community and your country better.  We are depending on you. This is in your hands, empower yourselves and be the change you want to see around you.

I close with the words of Maryann Williamson

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”


Congratulations to each of you, I wish for you God’s richest blessing, and Godspeed.  I leave with you the admonition and blessing that my fathers left me.  Walk good.

Thank you all very much.

The Invisible Hand of the Diaspora

The Invisible handThe Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign trade hosted the 6th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference from June 13th – 18th at the Montego Bay Conference Center.  The Conference saw the highest attendance in its short history of 3,000 persons.  By any standard that’s a lot of people.  As these things go it was well organized and executed.  There were the late starts, registration hitches and technical glitches but having taken on the advice of Benjamin Franklin not to be ‘disturbed by accidents common or unavoidable’ I did not allow these things to infect the otherwise good vibe.

At the opening Plenary titled ‘Brand Jamaica and Diaspora Investment Opportunities’ the erudite Professor Alvin Wint gave what was the most insightful and succinct presentations I have heard for a long time on what helps and hurts Jamaica’s economic development.  The size of Government was one of the three areas of some consequence in which we were stymying our growth.  Within the context of public sector wage negotiations, and the IMF’s tangential and coincidental comments on the same, the point resonated.  When asked why, if we know what the problems are, don’t we fix them, Professor Wint became suddenly non-academic.  His answer was plainly said, we are not good at implementation, was the point.

I will leave arguments on the opposing ideas of John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman with respect to the size of Government to those who have debated it for the past many decades.  What I will seek to elucidate further is the matter of implementation.  Effective implementation of anything is hard; from the startup of a one man jerk stall to national development policy and all in between.  It’s more try, fail, learn, try, succeed than brilliance.

Infrastructure is the work of Government, not implementation of business initiatives.  In fact, infrastructure is one of the three roles of Government identified by Adam Smith, the other two being national defense and the administration of law.  I present no more as evidence than the vast and impressive Montego Bay Conference Center, which for all is splendor, hosts, I understand, no more than 6 conferences per year.  Adam Smith was right on the role of government, as he was right on the virility of the pursuit of self-interest which brings me to my next point.

So I am front and center at the opening Plenary and look behind me expecting to see some large portion of the 3,000 attendees.  A substantial number were not at that session, or for that matter, many of the other sessions.  Where were they?  Networking, meeting, greeting, doing deals, making money, acting in their own interest (as distinct from acting selfishly).  I am taken back to Adam Smith’s words which lasts until this day as the fundamental articulation of capitalism.

‘By directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value he intends only his own gain and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.  Nor is it always the worse for society that it was not part of it.  By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.’

So when Dr. Harold Mignott got on stage at the closing plenary and said that he was seeing too many actions items for Government in the presentation of main recommendations from the Conference, and not enough for private initiative, he was on good ground.  The vast majority of people in the Diaspora he pointed out had no interest in a talk shop, but wanted to know, what’s in it for me.  There is, by some estimates USD 40 billion on wealth in the Diaspora, and USD 5 billion in investable private savings.  The money is there but it’s not going to come to Jamaica out of patriotism or out of the goodness of anyone’s heart.  Large numbers of Jamaican’s send money home annually, to the tune of 17% of Jamaica’s GDP.  This is not done to sheer up the national economy, it’s done to support families, buy food, pay rent, and pay school fees.  That the national economy is supported more ‘effectually’ is an outcome not an aim.

The challenge in continuing to engage the Diaspora therefore is to align all our interests, so that the Jamaican abroad in seeking to improve herself does so in a way that also improves the homeland, and all are better off.  From a Diaspora policy perspective, the direction has to be, as is evident from the Conference, that we graciously accept good deeds and reciprocate by clearing the way for good deals.

Do you. Your best chance for extraordina

Do you. Your best chance for extraordinary success. Learning from #DavidLetterman

Be well. Lifestyle, Health and the Medic

Be well. Lifestyle, Health and the Medical Industrial Complex. Take responsibility for your own health. #livewell

The Task of Leadership

The Task of Leadership

Grasping the Struggle

Mau ZedongOnce all struggle is grasped, miracles are possible.
Mao Zedong

To be sure, Chairman Mao is one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century, revered by many cursed by some, the world power we see today as China stands on foundations he lay. He leaned to poetry and philosophy as much as war and politics and it is from these gentler leanings that we have received this most potent aphorism ‘Once all struggle is grasped, miracles are possible.’ This may be held to be true in many endeavors but my interest here lies in its profundity in relation to great leadership.
While I am on the dichotomy of autarchs and angels, let me continue with the case of Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon was from Corsica, an island state conquered three months before his birth by France. He of course rose from this subjugated state to rule all of France. Remarkable really. Napoleon BonaparteNapoleonic scholars cite many struggles which prepared him for the miracle of his ascension to the apogee of military, political and economic leadership in Europe. But there was one experience in particular which many view as an inflection point for him, the nadir from which he sprung to unimaginable heights.

PBS describes the aftermath of his failed ambition to gain political power in Corsica:
“Bonaparte no longer had the right to live in Corsica, he had been given a death sentence by his own people. His idealism was shaken…The defeat in Corsica, the break from his hero Paoli had toughened him, made him shrewd and turned him toward France.
Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas in their 2002 Harvard Business Review article, Crucibles of Leadership, explore what they call a crucible experience and the role of that experience in creating outstanding leaders. According to the authors ‘ A crucible is, by definition, a transformative experience through which an individual comes to a new or an altered sense of identity.’ and from this transformative experience they emerge stronger, more confident in themselves and their purpose, and more committed to their work. In other words, crucible experiences make better leaders.
As a leader challenges will come; there seems to be no shortage of those, and they will come fast and furious, without regard for your strength of spirit or your strength of cash or your daily schedule or without regard to any of the more convenient times in the future which they may present themselves or better yet, not come at all. They will just show up uninvited with an air of their right to be there, and say to you, ‘deal with me and grow or quiver and shrivel’.
Disposition to disaster is more important than disaster itself. Great leaders don’t just try to get by or survive their obstacles, they actively drain every pint of lesson and learning from them and add that to their arsenal. When they rise, they are better armed, better equipped tougher, more formidable.
The mark of a leader is in the rising up. Bennis and Thomas put it this way ‘Our recent research has led us to conclude that one of the most reliable indicators and predictors of true leadership is an individual’s ability to find meaning in negative events and learn from even the most trying circumstances. Put another way, the skills required to conquer adversity and emerge stronger and more committed than ever are the same ones that make for extraordinary leaders.’
This is not an easy thing to do, but I have found Jim Collins’ observations a useful practice and recommendation. He notes in his article Level 5 Leadership, The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve the Stockdale Paradox:
“Named after Admiral James Stockdale, winner of the Medal of Honor, who survived seven years in a Vietcong POW camp by hanging on to two contradictory beliefs: His life could not be worse at the moment, and his life would someday be better than ever. Like Stockdale, people at the good-to-great companies in our research confronted the most brutal facts of their current reality, yet simultaneously maintained absolute faith that they would prevail in the end. And they held both disciplines-faith and fact-at the same time, all the time.”
Do not be deceived by the outward trappings of leadership that you may aspire to, money, power influence, deference, and someone bringing you lunch on a platter and calling you Mr. Leader. Understand that once you decide to do something extraordinary with your life, to test yourself, to see how good you are, how far you can go, you will be faced as much with serendipity as with calamity. To succeed, to achieve, to lead, those moments of disaster and despair must be used as a launching pad and not a headstone.

My Yoga Purge

Something was awfully awry.  I left the toilet seat up (again) and my wife did not repeat the diatribe, one of many, IMG_0020to which I had become accustomed and which had been slowly sizzled into my memory, such that I could repeat it, as if the words were the thoughts of Longfellow, Kipling or Shakespeare, punctuated with the colloquialism, ‘how yu head so tuff’.  Nothing came.

I did not witness the calm that overcomes mass murderers as they are about to do their deed, but rather the calm of a centered person, breath and body in synchronous undulation, the calm of an emerging Yogi.

When it comes time to work-out my wife had taken on the insane habit of heading to Bikgram Yoga Jamaica while I, trying to hold on pathetically to the inexorable ebb of my testosterone headed to the gym to pump iron with real men where we shout and scream, veins popping, muscles bulging, and look askance at how much the other guy is lifting.  This is the world I was accustomed to.  In my head my body could still devour the track with huge graceful strides to win the 100m Class 1 event at Boy’s Champs, or propel a 390 kilo bobsleigh from zero to fast in little seconds at the Olympic Games.  In truth my body had been trying to have a heart to heart with my head for some time but alas, ‘mi head tuff’.

Out of curiosity, I decided to try the practice which had produced this strange woman walking around in my house.  The first few times I went to Bikram Yoga I prayed after minute 1 that I would make it to minute 90.  After minute 90 I swore on the honor and courage of my African forebears that I would not set back foot in that place.  But I went, or was called, drawn, back.  Something strange was happening.  I started to make connections.

It was not the heat in the room that frightened me so much at first, but my fear of the heat.  I had then, not to overcome the heat, but to overcome my fear.  I knew from a lifetime of challenge that beyond fear lies courage, beyond courage lies challenge, and beyond challenge lies change.  I began to breathe.

I am now over half way into a 40 day challenge.  I take what I experience in life into my practice and what I learn in my practice into my life.  What was left of my ego went first, high level athletic credentials matter little in the studio.  A young lady, who calls me Uncle Chris, hits a perfect standing bow pose in her second class, and holds it for 20 seconds, feet visible above her head in the mirror.  I spend the twenty seconds stumbling about like a drunkard making his way home late on a Friday night payday.  But even that is Okay.  I was trying.  ‘To stumble is to be human, to try again is to be a Yogi.’ 

I am reassured by the teacher, and I understand deep in my consciousness, that the benefit is in the effort not in the result.  So different from the ethos that only winning matters in my outside worlds.  One day I will get the pose, but by then I would have learned what I needed to.  Another practice aphorism echoes in the back of my mind as I am in Awkward Pose and feel as if I am going to fall backward ‘trust the process’ and I try, even as my legs tremble as I squat beside a fifty something mother who has done little more than PE in high school but is holding the pose steadily, head up, arms reaching, elegant.  The struggle is never against the person beside you, it’s always against yourself.

Exhausted, I collapse into dead body pose.  Will someone please turn on the fan, its hot, how many poses left, what time is it? Lawd Jeezas help mi!  I am about to have a panic attack, but I breathe.  The teacher, in tune with the class, says, ‘own your breath. If you own your breath, nothing or no one can steal your peace.’  I calm down, like the hollering baby I saw in the airport last week who was only calmed by its mother’s breast, I breathe and am comforted.  The breath connects me to the milk of the universe and I am at peace…’heels, toes, together…sit up.  I am renewed.

I am getting dressed to go to a meeting; my clothes no longer fit.  My waist is now what it was in high school, having been lost somewhere in the yoga studio.  I tighten my belt and smooth out the wrinkles in my pants waist. I am accustomed now to the various comments, ‘how yu so mawga’ from my mother to ‘you look so good’ from a passing stranger.  My wife is smelling the roses and causes me to be late for the meeting.  She is anticipating my own diatribe, I breathe, and it’s all good.  My head may not be that tough after all.

The Ablest Navigators

Of winds and waves
Winds and Waves
The eighteenth century historian and British Parliamentarian Edward Gibbon provides one of the deepest insights into leadership success, almost in passing, as he describes an encounter between Christian crusaders and Ottoman Turks in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:
In the Christian squadron, five stout and lofty ships were guided by skillful pilots, and manned with the veterans of Italy and Greece, long practiced in the arts and perils of the sea. Their weight was directed to sink or scatter the weak obstacles that impeded their passage; their artillery swept the waters; their liquid fire was poured on the heads of their adversaries, who, with the design of boarding, presumed to approach them; and the winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.
The account may be read as an allegory for organizational leadership. He did not say the pilots were new and inexperienced, he did not say they turned around when they saw the obstacles and most importantly, he did not offer that the winds and waves were not in their favor. Rather, for the best leaders, the winds and waves are always on their side. This is not to say that the winds and waves are always favorable, but to say that able leaders know how to turn difficult circumstances to their advantage.

X Friends
Let me introduce you to Mr. X Plain, though you know him already. X is the boy who blamed the stones on the field when he miskicked a ball, he would have said he lost the 100m dash because there was a headwind (in his lane only), or his cricket team lost because the ball was soft, though both teams played with the same ball. no-excuses X Plain never really became good at anything, proving the truth again of Benjamin Franklin’s words “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” X Plain is destined to rue in his later years with the words of Paul Sartre “Circumstances have been against me, I was worthy to be something much better than I have been”
His friend, X Cell, would have made the adjustment on the stony field to be more aware of the bounce of the ball, he would have taken responsibility for losing the race and committed to training harder, he would be more cautious as a batsman; always looking, learning, adjusting, innovating, never blaming.

You have sat in meetings with an adult X Plain. He cannot resist the temptation to expound on the circumstances which led to his missing his targets, or failing to deliver on a project task. He does so in great detail, presenting sophisticated arguments, spurious to the point of being believable and expertly soliciting sympathy. This is a teachable moment for transformative leadership. X Cell, who is now CEO of the company, either subtly or forcibly, depending on style, asks for an end to the ‘long story’ and uses the moment to instruct the group; what he is interested in as leader is results. He will do his best to support you in solving problems and overcoming obstacles, but at the end of the day success is not built on a recognition of challenges, it is built on overcoming them. As baseball pitcher Johnny Sain put it, “The world doesn’t want to hear about the labor pains. They just want to see the baby.’

The Economics of Challenge
Every challenge is an opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competitors. To the extent that you succeed where your competitors fail, or find solutions where your competitors have none, then you strengthen your position in the market, fortify your competitive advantage and set yourself up for supernormal profits. Arie de Geus, past V.P. of Strategy at Royal Dutch Shell said it well, “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.”
The business reverberations of the challenge / excuse or challenge / success alternate pathways is put succinctly by John Maxwell, in his book The 360 Degree Leader “It is easier to move from failure to success than it is from excuses to success.”

Challenge is a filter. It separates the ordinary from the good from the extraordinary. The single greatest threat to overcoming challenge is the propensity to offer an excuse as to why it cannot be overcome. As if that makes it OK. Worse yet is to believe that excuse yourself. That only loosens your resolve and turns off your minds subconscious ability to solve problems. The mind needs tension to come up with creative solutions. Excuses slacken that tension.

Leading businesses welcome challenges because while their competitors are offering excuses to investors as to why those challenges could not be overcome, they are busy overcoming them, achieving their mission and creating value. To the extent that you can purge your organization of the culture of excuses and engender a culture of solutions, you will be a good leader and an able navigator.

Ernest Shackleton - Endurance

The Ablest Navigators

The Ablest Navigators

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