July 17, 2008
Listening - to Others, to Yourself, to the Wind
“He was in heavy listening mode, the most aggressive listening the world has ever known: aerobic listening. It is an intense, disconcerting phenomenon – as if he were hearing quicker than you can get the words out, as if he were sucking the information out of you.”
- Anonymous. Primary Colors. A Novel of Politics. 1996.
We usually think of listening as something we do (or not do) when someone else is talking. That certainly is the commonly understood form of listening and one in which good leaders become adept. Although this form of listening may seem, at first, to be a passive experience, listening as described above can be an active, energy requiring process, sometimes even an intense one. A listener like this commands our attention, makes us appreciative of the listener, and may even encourage us to communicate better.
The ability to listen is part of the ability to communicate, which is essential to good leadership. Clearly, the roles of listener and speaker change in any conversation, but leaders often find themselves in situations in which they are expected mostly to listen. Good listening requires the ability to focus and pay attention. Some leaders naturally are interested in what other people have to say; others need to work on that skill. Listening is of value to both the sender and the receiver. People want to know that their point of view is heard by someone who is in authority and who cares. They may want something to be done or to be able to contribute to the decision making process. The listener also benefits. This is how one learns a great deal of information. Often good listening enables one to see a more complete picture. I try to resist the temptation to interrupt and preempt the speaker (I don't learn much when I am talking), although a question or interjection sometimes is necessary for clarification or to direct the conversation to important subject matter.
June 12, 2008
Heroes and Mentors and Peers
“At that age [11 years] I was susceptible to heroes and role models and decided that I wanted to be like him.”
- Gregory L. Eastwood, Case Western Reserve University Alumni Website, Spring 2008 http://www.case.edu/alumni/award/eastwoodint.html
“Mentor was an old friend of Odysseus, to whom the King had entrusted his whole household when he sailed, with orders to… keep everything intact."
- Homer, The Odyssey
“Everyone near him was influenced by him, deeply and permanently. Some he taught how to think, others how to see or hear.”
- John Steinbeck, from About Ed Rickets,
in The Log From the Sea of Cortez, 1951
One of the obligations of those who have influence over others’ lives, which clearly include leaders, is to pay attention to the circumstances under which we do influence others’ lives. Heroes and role models play a big part in the growing up process, even well into adulthood. Parents, teachers, coaches, and others often do not fully appreciate the profound ways they emotionally and intellectually touch and influence the lives of children and young adults. Perhaps my sixth grade Sunday school teacher, Dr. Gerald S. Wilson, had some idea of the effect he had on me because I followed him to Western Reserve University School of Medicine. But I wish I could have thanked Mr. Monte, my 12th grade English teacher, for igniting my interest in literature and poetry and the numerous other teachers and exemplars who sustained me throughout my formal education.
Somewhere along our educational and early career path we commonly encounter mentors. Mentors also can be heroes, and they typically have qualities that we admire and want to emulate, but usually they guide us in practical, operational matters, helping us to find our direction and learn what to do and how to do it. Sometimes we recognize their value at the time, but often it is in retrospect, as life unfolds, that we understand better their importance to us. The mentoring relationships I experienced developed naturally in the course of my education and career, that is, they did not occur within a structured program of mentoring. Mentoring of young faculty is much discussed on college campuses and it goes on in corporations and other organizations, often with good results. I think the challenge of organized, structured mentoring programs is to preserve the magic of the natural process while making it broadly and consistently available. (Incidently, Mentor, the old friend of Ulysses to whom he entrusted his household and his son Telemachus when he left Ithaca for the Trojan War and subsequent adventures, and from whom we get the term mentor, evidently was not a very good mentor. When Ulysses returned 20 years later, the house was in riot and whether Telemachus had received the proper instruction from Mentor is debatable.)
After heroes and mentors, what then?
May 13, 2008
"O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!"
- Robert Burns (1759-1796), To a Louse
According to my high school English literature teacher, Mr. Monte, Robert Burns wrote To A Louse after he sat behind a beautiful lady in church one Sunday and observed a louse crawling up her hair onto her bonnet. This stimulated a train of speculation about the impudence of the critter strutting on such a lovely lady, rather than on a beggar or someone of inferior rank, and, if some power would give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us, perhaps it would free us from many foolish blunders and make us less pretentious in the way we appear and act.
If you are in the business of leading others, it is helpful to know something about yourself - what motivates you, how you think, why you behave in certain ways, and how you are perceived by and affect others. Clearly, understanding your own experiences throughout your life is relevant. Also, part of knowing yourself is having some understanding of how others regard you. You can learn about this by paying attention to what others say to you and about you and how they react to you, although what they say and do often is conveyed in a sort of code that more or less conforms to social rules and requires interpretation. We all vary in our ability to pick up on those cues that others send. I believe that effective leaders are able to understand how they come across to others and make modifications to correct ineffective behavior and strengthen what is effective. But, should we see ourselves exactly as others see us? Thank goodness most of us have protective defenses that allow us to get through the day without feeling completely foolish. However, leaders do need to have some understanding of how they are perceived. An amount of reality testing is essential in maintaining credibility and knowing how to deal effectively with others.
April 08, 2008
What is Ethical Leadership?
“Leadership… is an essentially moral act.”
- A. Bartlett Giamatti
I suppose the first question to ask is, What is ethics? My dictionary says ethics is “the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation… a set of moral principles… or system of moral values.” However, although sometimes we equate morals and ethics, I like the distinction that Bernard Lo makes in his book, Resolving Ethical Dilemmas (3rd ed, 2005):
“Moral choices ultimately rest on values or beliefs that cannot be proved but are simply accepted. …ethics connotes deliberation and explicit arguments to justify particular actions. …ethics focuses on the reasons why an action is considered right or wrong. It asks people to justify their positions and beliefs by rational arguments that can persuade others.”
I believe that Lo’s concept of ethics calls us to think about our actions and justify them in the context of our own moral and ethical principles. We should be able to explain, at least to ourselves, and we would hope to others, why we make certain choices. I also believe that understanding ethics has a pragmatic payoff. It provides a framework for approaching difficult problems. We learn what questions to ask and we integrate our religious, moral, and cultural perspectives to arrive at a workable solution.
Then, what is ethical leadership?
March 05, 2008
“A [person] does not fight merely to win.”
- Cyrano de Bergerac
I have read Edmond Rostand’s play Cyrano de Bergerac several times since I was a teenager. I remember with great nostalgia the 1950 black and white movie starring Jose Ferrer, and my wife and I share good memories of Christopher Plummer in the title role four decades ago in Stratford, Ontario. Suffice to say, Cyrano, the incurable romantic and idealist with a big nose, resonates with me. Maybe it is because I have a big nose, too. After all, Cyrano says, “A great nose indicates a great man.”
Cyrano seemed always to be in a fight or provoking one – a load of logs dumped on his head while he was walking down a narrow passage resulted in his death – righting some wrong, defending some principle. Cyrano seemed driven to win, certainly with his sword, but even more with his wits. So when he says, finally, “A man does not fight merely to win,” I always need to stop to make sure I have it right. It reminds me of John F. Kennedy’s contention that “In the age-old contest between popularity and principle, only those willing to lose for their convictions are deserving of posterity's approval.” (Profiles in Courage)
February 10, 2008
Sometimes I Just Can’t Help Doing the Right Thing - I Guess It’s in My Genes
“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, 1944
Charles Darwin was born Feb 12, 1809 and his monumental book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, was published in 1859. Thus, 2009 is both the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of Origin of Species. The Inamori Center will participate in the 2008-09 Darwin Year Celebration, by hosting Robert Richards September 18-19, 2008. Dr. Richards is Fishbein Professor of the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Chicago and his interests include the evolutionary basis of ethical behavior.
Which brings us to the matter of whether morality, ethics, altruism, sympathy, fairness, cooperation, and the like evolved in Darwinian fashion. Increasing evidence, beginning with speculations by Charles Darwin himself, and accumulating since, indicate that, yes, these high-minded qualities of human thought and behavior indeed have evolved to the benefit of individuals and the community of humanity. Recent research has been aided by such sophisticated machinery as positron-emission tomographic scanning (PET scan) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which can localize and characterize brain activity in correlation with mood, emotion, problem solving, writing, other mental activities, and even perhaps religious experience.
January 08, 2008
Leadership to Run the World
“… the world will not be run by those who possess mere information alone… The world henceforth will be run by synthesizers, people able to put together the right information at the right time, think critically about it, and make important choices wisely.”
- Edward O. Wilson in Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, 1999
I have been thinking a great deal about what kind of leaders the world needs. This is not a new activity for me - I have contemplated the subject for several decades - but my interest has been invigorated in the context of the Inamori Center, whose purpose is “to foster ethical leadership around the world.” At the outset I want to make clear that I believe that leadership is not the exclusive domain of those individuals with high ranking titles. Nearly everyone will have the opportunity to be a leader. That is why the development of ethical leadership is so important within our colleges and universities.
During the Case Western Reserve University Commencement, May 20, 2007, I told the graduates that they will have a lifetime of opportunities for leadership. I said, “I believe that the world needs leaders who can think big - and can think small - simultaneously. Leaders who think and act strategically and tactically at the same time. Leaders who are capable of understanding broad ideas simultaneously with understanding their application. Leaders who use both analytical and intuitive thinking, who are capable of fusing their left brain and their right brain. These are people I call ‘pragmatic visionaries.’”
December 04, 2007
“What are the Ethical Responsibilities of Journalists?”
This topic evoked a vigorous discussion among panelists and audience during a symposium held at the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence on November 16, 2007. The event was part of the Inamori Center Ethical Leadership Series in conjunction with Professor Joseph White’s Public Affairs Discussion Group. Panelists were Theodore Gup, Shirley Wormser Professor of Journalism, and Christianne Sheridan, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Presidential Communications at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Gregory Eastwood, Director of the Inamori Center, moderated the discussion.
Journalists and news media editors are leaders in our society. Thus, consideration of the ethical responsibilities of journalists is a fitting topic for discussion under the sponsorship of the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence, whose purpose is to foster ethical leadership around the world.
The following is an edited synopsis of the questions posed by the moderator and the audience, and the consequent commentary.
November 05, 2007
What are the Ethical Responsibilities of Journalists?
The Inamori Center Ethical Leadership Series, in conjunction with the Public Affairs Discussion Group, presents a panel on this subject at 12:30 PM, Friday, November 16, 2007 in the Inamori Center, Ground Floor, Crawford Hall, Case Western Reserve University
Panelists: Theodore Gup, Shirley Wormser Professor of Journalism
Chris Sheridan, Director of Presidential Communications
Moderator: Gregory Eastwood, Director, Inamori Center
Your comments and responses to the following questions will help inform the discussion November 16. Comments after November 16 also are welcome.
October 24, 2007
Information about the Inamori Center
Welcome to the Blog for the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. I hope you visit us often and contribute to the discussion about ethical leadership and related issues. Before we engage in further discussion, however, I would like to explain some of the history of the center and its purpose.
The Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence was created by a generous gift from Dr. Kazuo Inamori, President of the Inamori Foundation and Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Kyocera Corporation, who believes that “people have no higher calling than to serve the greater good of humankind and society” and “the future of humanity can be assured only through the balance of scientific progress and spiritual maturity.” The Inamori Center will foster the development of future leaders who will, in the words of Kazuo Inamori, "Serve humankind through ethical deeds rather than actions based on self-interest and selfish desires."
The purpose of the Inamori Center is to foster ethical leadership around the world. The Inamori Center fulfills its purpose by awarding a high profile ethics prize annually; collaborating with people and entities at Case Western Reserve University, in the regional community, and around the United States and the world; and sponsoring ethics research, scholarship, symposia, lectures, and other means of ethical discourse. As a beginning to influencing ethical leadership around the world, the center seeks to create a strong understanding of ethics, ethical thinking, and ethical behavior for all students, staff, and faculty at Case Western Reserve University.
Gregory L. Eastwood, MD
Director, Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence