Friday, May 06, 2005

Oprah Winfrey- Leadership Summary

Growing up, Oprah defined the term “Rags to Riches”
Oprah Winfrey was born in rural Mississippi in 1954 to unmarried parents
Oprah spent the first six years of her life living in poverty on a farm with her grandparents
Went back and forth living with mom and then dad
While living back with her mother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she was raped by a cousin and sexually abused by other sexual predators
She gave birth to a son, who was born prematurely and died shortly afterwards, when she was only14.

After working for some time at the WVOL radio station in Nashville, she went on to work at its television station, WLAC-TV
She became the youngest person and first African-American woman to anchor the news at the Nashville station
She left college before graduating to accept a job at station WJZ-TV in Baltimore, Maryland, where she worked as a reporter and co-anchor of the evening news

She is an actress, producer, book promoter, philanthropist, businesswoman and talk show host as well as the chairman of HARPO Entertainment group.

In April 2000 she launched O magazine
It became one of the most successful new magazines in publishing history.
In 2003, the Forbes magazine list of American billionaires included Oprah Winfrey—the first African-American women to reach billionaire status.

In 1996, Oprah started a monthly tradition showcasing books.
"Oprah's Choice“– Oprah's endorsement of a book could sell a million copies in the few weeks before the title was discussed on her show
During the lifetime of her book club, 47 books were given the Oprah seal of approval, and each went on to the bestseller charts.

Oprah Becomes 1st African American "Top Philanthropist" (2004)
Oprah Winfrey has donated over $150 million dollars in pledges and gifts to several charities. This has earned her the No. 40 spot on Business Week’s annual ranking of America’s top donators, and it also distinguishes Oprah as the first African American ever to make the list.
Donates at least ten percent of her massive income to good causes, mostly anonymously

Charitable Organizations:
Oprah's Angel Network
A Better Chance

In 1991, motivated in part by her own memories of childhood abuse, she initiated a campaign to establish a national database of convicted child abusers
She testified before a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of a National Child Protection Act
President Clinton signed the National Child Protection Act in 1993.
The law became known as the “Oprah Bill”.
The law created a database to help track child abusers.

Leadership Styles
People trust Oprah
The popularity of the show stems from Oprah's emotion, vulnerability, and compassion as a host and interviewer.
She was the first to establish a special connection with her audience by sharing her personal life, ranging from anecdotes about her life-time partner Stedman Graham, to her emotional revelation of her own childhood sexual abuse.
Oprah can be characterized as a Transformational leader
As a transformational leader, she articulates a realistic vision of the future that can be shared, stimulates subordinates intellectually, and has become charismatic in the eyes of her followers.
Oprah Winfrey, possess the quality known as charisma.
She illustrates several specific charismatic attributes such as a transcendent vision, the ability to inspire and build confidence, rhetorical ability and a powerful sense of aura about her.
Winfrey demonstrates the ability to motivate, be persistent in the face of frustration and make lasting commitments to the common good.
She creates an atmosphere of openness in the organizations she leads, deals with difficult issues in a straightforward manner, listens well and shares information fully.
As an Interactive Leader- Oprah is deeply aware of the feelings and emotions of those around her. She has natural leadership skills... and is a relationship expert.

Oprah Winfrey was named one of the 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century by Time Magazine.
In 1998 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Oprah did not believe that being poor, black, overweight and female in Mississippi was enough to hold her back from pursuing her dreams.
She has become one of the most powerful people on television, a super celebrity who translated her success into a thriving business empire, while maintaining a persona that makes people feel like she is their best friend.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Younger Generations Apathetic to Politics

Taking advantage of the right to vote in the United States is declining year after year. The US Census Bureau has compiled voter characteristics since 1964. In the year Lyndon Johnson was elected President, registered voters 18-24 years of age voted 50.9%, (about one out of two). Since then, voting has been on a steady descent. In the 2000 presidential election, a measly 32.3% of Generation X (born between 1960 and 1981) and Generation Y (born between 1981 and 1995) managed to exercise their right to vote.

To not take part in the virtual forming of the country's direction is to, in some respects, leave fate to chance. All other age groups with regard to voting have recognized the necessity of participation, although voting overall has declined from a high of 69.3% in 1964, to the present day 54.7%, with most of the drop-off attributed to the apathetic young adult.

The stakes are enormous, especially in presidential elections. Campaign strategists believe that if mobilized, the 24 million young people eligible to vote could turn the election for either major candidate. But young people just don't do politics.

But to what can this lack of interest in politics be attributed? One argument states that young adults’ cynicism may be bred by the view that Social Security will not be around for them. Also, an overwhelming majority of the polls suggest that young people, though they feel alienated from government, would, nevertheless, like government to do more to help them get ahead.

There are many arguments to why young people are not interested in politics, but what exactly can be done to stop this downward spiral of apathetic young Americans? The organization, Rock the Vote, formed in 1990, was developed for this very reason. We as citizens under a democratic nation have been given the power to express our beliefs. Voting is a great responsibility that must be taken seriously.

As always, with great power comes great responsibility. To get more young people to vote, somehow we need to capture their attention and emphasize the importance of the opportunity to express themselves as individuals. I think that younger voters may not see just how much the presidency does influence our lives and the world around us. Younger voters should talk to older voters and see exactly how the president does affect our lives. One of the biggest things the younger generations needs to realize is the many positive or negative affects that one election can make on our lives.

I think for a first-time voter, it may be a somewhat scary undertaking to get informed on the political candidates, especially when they do not read the newspapers on a regular basis or have even a general understanding of politics. It is difficult to get a good grasp on things when you are new at this. If only the older, more mature voters would show the first-time voters the processes to go through to get informed and then vote, younger voters might be less intimidated by the process.

The younger generations need to understand the importance of leadership on the nation, and not take politics lightly. This country has seen good and bad leaders, and it is up to the younger generation to help keep the nation strong and healthy by exercising their right to vote. Only then will our system of government continue to work the way it is supposed to work.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Book Review - Leadership

Book Review
Hesselbein on Leadership
(Book by Frances Hesselbein)

This book on leadership, by Hesselbein, focuses on her real world experiences as a leader. She has taken what she has learned throughout the years and combined those ideas into her books. This book looks at the leadership qualities that have worked for Hesselbein, and puts them into terms that are easy to understand, and can be applied to any area of work that requires a leader, whether in a volunteer role or in a work related role.

Hesselbein’s leadership roles throughout her life have brought about many different ideas about what exactly leadership is and how it is defined. Through her many years of research, she has come up with her own definition of leadership. Hesselbein defines leadership as this: “Leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do it” (p. 3).

In her book, Hesselbein identifies three main points about good leadership: 1) Leadership—A matter of how to be, not how to do it, 2) Leading the organization of the future, and 3) Leading in a new century, a new world.

First and foremost, Hesselbein argues that the one most important aspect of a leader is his/her behaviors and how to they act as well as how they treat the followers. Their attitude and mannerisms determine if they will be a successful leader. The leaders who show good manners, appreciation and respect for their employees demonstrate the best leadership qualities have he most success, Hesselbein argues. A leader who simply barks orders at their employees will find that the people under their leadership may not respond to this type of leader in a positive way.

This “tough” leadership style does not produce content employees and does not facilitate a bonding between leader and subordinate. Effective leaders today should be practicing behaviors that build trust with their followers. Hesselbein states, “Our behaviors as well as our words build a climate of trust, a climate of respect, and a climate where mission, values, and equal access permeate the organization” (p. 33). She also gives a list of barriers, both personal and self-imposed barriers, which need to be broken down. It is through this building of a healthy relationship that better performances will be achieved, and teamwork is built.

After this is accomplished, the next step is to a four-step process that is critical to a leadership transition. The four phases are: 1) Defining a vision, 2) Building a search infrastructure, 3) Delegating authority, and 4) Conducting the search. When a leader is in the transition period, it is important for others to be intentional in the planning process and be involved in the future of a company or organization.

The second view of leadership deals with leading organizations of the future. In an organizational setting, the functions of the employees are very hierarchical. The famous pyramid design is accepted with the CEO sitting on the pointed top looking down as the workforce looked up. Instead, Hesselbein suggest that more of a wheel image should be used. The organizational chart should look like a circular management system with a center, but no top or bottom. This shows more of a team working group as opposed to a traditional top to bottom layout.

Hesselbein also suggest ways in which to transform leadership. She offers eight techniques that can be used to transform a leader: 1) scan the environment, 2) revisit the mission, 3) ban the hierarchy, 4) challenge the gospel, 5) employ the power of language, 6) disperse leadership across the organization, 7) lead from the front, don’t push from the rear, and 8) assess performance. Hesselbein argues that while the journey and the milestones of a leader in the transformational stages are known, the “destinations are uncharted, and for each organization the destination will be determined not by the curve of the road ahead but also by the power of the mission and the leadership it inspires” (p.69-70).

Hesselbein’s third stage of leadership is- Leading in a new century, a new world. In this section, she says that an effective leader is determined by the characteristics they possess. And it is through their innovations and language of leadership that gains success. “Leaders everywhere affirm that everything begins with a mission, that the mission statement should be short, powerful, and compelling” (p. 101). When a leader successfully defines the mission statement, the goals and visions of the company are clearly defined. Doing this accomplishes one of the even greater challenges- defining reality.

This book could be compared to the trait approach to leadership. It focuses on a leader’s attitude and their responsibility as a leader to respect the employees or those under their command, and be flexible enough to make people happy, yet firm enough to demand a certain amount of respect. Yet no matter what, the leader has to consider the situation before using the trait approach. The second style this book can be compared to is the style approach. It focuses on employee-leader relations and how a healthy relationship between the two can improve many aspects of the job as well as how healthy teamwork within the workforce helps to build strong relationships within an organization which in turn grows a healthier organization.

The main weakness of this book is that Hesselbein talks a lot about how the characteristics of a person determine a good leader and what to do or say as an effective leader, but the examples she used were not concrete enough examples. It would have been better had she used better instances in which her leadership styles worked and, if they worked, how they worked.

One of the key strengths to this book is its simplicity. It is easy to read and understand. It gives several very clear concepts that any one person can take and use in his/her leadership styles. There are many different styles of leadership, and this one focuses on a leader’s personality and their attitude towards their subordinates and how they treat and lead them. A person’s attitude largely effects their job satisfaction and by having a leader who understands this aspect, employees are more likely to be happy in their job and enjoy working.

Hesselbein’s book on leadership identifies many of the key concepts that a good leader should posses, and the styles of leadership that have worked for her in her own leadership positions throughout her life. It illustrates how a healthy organization is formed and how it should be run, not with the leaders far above the subordinates, but rather working in conjunction with one another as a team, working towards a common goal. She really seems to understand her definition of leadership- “Leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do it”- and lived by her own motto by being a good example of how good leadership should work.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Leaders in Pop Culture

The human condition does not always allow the good leaders to rise. Instead, bad or negative leaders are allowed to rise. This is especially true in the music industry, where fans continue to idolize their favorite band or artist. Leadership need not imply that a leader is by nature someone wise and inspirational. Rather, we should better understand the sometimes outside forces that may drive leaders as well as their followers.

In many ways I believe Britney Spears is a powerful leader in this generation. I know…it’s Britney Spears…but whether a good or bad leader, positive or negative, she is one type of a leader.

First let’s talk a little bit about her positive influence on the younger generation. Britney strongly believes in the power of music and how it has been a benefit in her life. She wanted to pass her benefits on to other children. That's why she started The Britney Spears Foundation, which is focused on a single goal -- to help children in need. The “philosophy behind the foundation is that music and entertainment has a healing quality that can truly benefit these kids”. The mission of The Britney Spears Foundation is focused on a singular goal - to help children. The mission also states: central to the foundation's core principles is the ability to apply the restorative aspect of entertainment to benefit children in need.

In many ways this is a great representation of how Britney cares about the youth and wants to try to help them—whether through a healing process or helping them to achieve their goals in life. But is this positive leadership enough to counter the negative leadership aspects she also represents?

Britney has received much criticism not only about her music, but also about her choice of clothing. Many of Britney’s fans are young teenage girls who are looking up to her for fashion trends and for what is cool. But her skimpy outfits are not suitable for teen girls. Many parents are outraged for her lack of care and concern for what parents think about her dress and the messages she is sending to young girls. Her responsibility to this group of young people is greater than which she wishes to be accountable.

Her music also contains lyrics to which young children should not be listening and singing along. Many of her songs contain sexually explicit material and words that are not fit for young ears. Caring parents are horrified when they become aware of what kind of filth Britney as well as the rest of the music industry is feeding today’s youth. Britney is not a positive role model for women. She may just be a fabricated corporate fraud created by record producers to make money. But it seems as if the more parents and critics complain about her actions and music, the more she tends to continue wearing her scanty outfits and sing her sexually explicit music.

Although Britney may try to do positive work through her foundation, her negative influence on her younger fans stands out in people’s eyes more so than her good deeds. Just because a person tries to do good in some ways, a good leader needs to take responsibility in that sort of leadership role. Britney needs to be concerned for the well-being of all her fans and not just the select few that are sent to her foundation. She needs to be consistent as a role model and take her popularity and use it for good.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Leaders with a Vision

I had a typical high school job —I worked in the food court at a local mall at a place called CinnaMonster (like a CinnaBon). But my boss/owner of CinnaMonster, Dale, was unlike any other boss I have ever had. Not only did he work hard everyday, he had special leadership qualities about him that made working there a great learning experience.

As I read about transformational leadership and the qualities this type of leader possesses, I immediately thought of Dale. He fit the description perfectly. And although the setting is not the typical organizational setting, the small food store made a perfect place for one of Dale’s visions—he wanted to encourage each one of his employees, not only in their work, but also in their lives while they were employed at CinnaMonster.

When business was slow, Dale would take the time to ask how things were going in his employees lives. He was truly interested in each one as a person and not just as employees. He was concerned about their concerns, asked about their thoughts, and made sure things in life were going alright. By doing this on a consistent basis during the slow times at work, I personally became more comfortable talking about many aspects of my life—my goals, dreams, aspirations, relationships, and even religion.

These conversations helped raise my motivational level and made work less like work, and more like a good learning experience. By listening to the problems, concerns or even the exciting times going on in the lives of his employees, he was able to build a trusting relationship with them and become a strong moral influence and role model for many of the other high school age people who worked there.

And his leadership role also carried over to the actual working part as well. Because Dale took interest in our lives, we were happy to work for him and if he need us to help him out and do extra little things at work, we were willing to reach out to help him in return for his kindness. He was always encouraging the workers to be friendly to the customers or gently correct someone if they did something wrong. And he was always good at saying things like “Thanks” or “Good Job”. And when needed, there was some corrective criticism. It was those little pieces of encouragement that made him a great boss and leader on the job.

When there was opportunity, Dale would challenge us to little contests for a small reward. One of the challenges was simply to see who could sell the most boxes of cinnamon rolls near closing time. Silly — yes…but effective. It made work a little more challenging with some competition involved too.

I think it is always the little things that make the biggest difference between a good leader and a not so good leader. Simple encouragement, genuine concern for a person’s well-being, simple kindness towards the followers (or employees in this case), as well as a mutual respect for each other can go a long way in the eyes of the followers.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Leadership: Contingency Theory

Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. When trying to lay down exactly what leadership is and what it does, it is important to find a theory to help describe a certain type of leadership style. One theory, called the Contingency Theory of leadership is a leadership style from Fred Fiedler's 40 year study of leadership and organizational effectiveness. The approach focuses on trying to match a leader’s certain style to a certain situation. The contingency theory suggests that a leader’s success depends on how well he/she is matched up within the context of a situation. The theory suggests that there is no one best way to lead, but instead a multiple of ways a person can lead depending on the person’s leadership style and the situation. Each new and different circumstance may require a new leadership style. In short, a person’s leadership style depends mainly on the situation in which they are involved.

There are several strengths to this theory. One is that a person is not expected to be effective in all situations. A person may have the ability to be a good leader in many aspects, but other circumstances may arise where a person is not able to lead as effectively as in other situations. This enables a person to be more relaxed while leading and not worrying about being the perfect leader in every situation. There is no best way for a leader to lead. The situation is contingent on the factors that impose on the situation. Of course, a leader should be placed in a leadership role that is most appropriate for that person’s leadership style, and when one role does not work well, another role should attempt to replace that role with another situational responsibility. But this leadership style works well in that leaders do not feel it is required of them to be absolutely effective in all situations.

Another major strength of the contingency theory is the use of the LPC score or the Least Preferred Coworker scale. This scale is used to assess three variables: leader member relations, task structure, and position power. Using the scale provides useful data that can help determine a good leader. It helps get information that would determine where a person would do best in certain situations and in which part of an organization a person would best fit.

A major weakness of the contingency theory is that it does not explain why some people are good leaders in some situations while poor leaders in other situations. It seems as if the LPC does not effectively help to explain why individuals are a certain way in any given situation. It does not give details to why a person may feel more confident in some situation and far less confident in their leadership abilities in another context. And since the contingency theory has trouble correlating links between style and situations, they tend to heavily rely upon the LPC, which has often been questioned for in legitimacy in research.

It is, therefore, always important to look at all aspects of a theory before relying completely on that one theory for complete guidance in leadership decisions.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Influential Leader

Bill Gates is one of the most influential people of this generation. As the chief and co-founder Microsoft, he is the world's richest man, and his career delivers this message: “It can be wiser to follow than to lead. Let the innovators hit the beaches and take the losses; if you hold back and follow, you can clean up in peace and quiet”.

As a generation who seems to be lost without their technology, we should almost be thanking this man for what he has done for us. Yet we seem to never be able to do just that. We criticize him all the more. Have we been unfair to him? Few Americans have been so resented, envied and vilified. But in certain ways his career is distinguished by decency — and he hasn't got much credit for it. It almost seems as if ideas in technology confuse us so much that we decide to hate those who actually understand it.

To summarize Gates success, it all began when he combined a version of the programming language BASIC with the Altair 8800- then becoming Microsoft's first product, which is arguably the world's first personal computer. By 1980, IBM had decided to build personal computers and needed a PC operating system. IBM hired Microsoft to build its operating system. The PC was released in August 1981 and was followed into the market by countless clones. Microsoft's DOS was one of three official PC operating systems but quickly beat out the other two. DOS was an even bigger hit than BASIC. Gates had it made big, and his success and influence only grew from there.

Many people today rely heavily on their computers. Between e-mail, instant messenger, and the internet, the way we go about our daily live has changed dramatically in only a few short years. We rely more on the computer to communicate than in face to face communication. It has become a new means of human interaction and has changed the ways of lives around the world. It has revolutionized communication and the way people think about talking to others or even collecting information. It is just amazing to think about how quickly the internet has impacted our lives and penetrated out worlds. Without Bill Gates’ work, who knows where technology would be today. The Internet has changed many parts of communication, and will continue to change, almost every aspect of communication now and in the future.