Leadership Déjà Vu

What you mean, masters you.
From author Luis A. Marrero’s unpublished book:
The Meaningful Purpose Leader

According to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, “We are clearly experiencing a crisis in leadership.”

Being close to the middle of 2014, have we since learned, and made improvements? Here is what the 2014 Edelman Trust Report states: “Events in the past 12 months, including a record fine of $13 billion for J. P. Morgan on the sale of troubled mortgage securities, the largest ever bankruptcy in Latin America with the failure of Eike Batista’s EB deep-water oil drilling firm and food scandals involving antibiotics in the poultry of China, have renewed concerns about business’ ability to self-regulate.”

The leadership crisis is also noticeable in government actions around the world. One example is the most recent incursion of Russia into the Ukraine — an echo of the Nazi’s invasion of Poland in the fall of 1939.

Why is it that history – both in business and international affairs — keeps repeating itself, and so few are learning from its lessons? Why is it that, despite the Slide3billions of dollars invested in leadership education, training, coaching, management consulting, and publications, many of those in charge of our governing political and business institutions “didn’t get the memo”? Why do leaders and others have such difficulty self-regulating, as Richard Edelman suggests?

Those of you who have read my first book, The Path to a Meaningful Purpose, and my posts will recall that the central thesis of my research on meaningful purpose psychology rests in one statement:

                                           Mankind does not suffer from lack of answers.
Rather, it suffers despite the answers being available.

Applied to leadership, the problem statement reads:

Leaders do not fail from a lack of answers.
Rather, they fail despite the answers being available.

This post is dedicated to some of my impatient students who have urged me to bypass my second book in the meaningful purpose anthology, and to give (understandably) urgent attention to the third, which I have titled, “The Meaningful Purpose Leader.” (It is not going to happen, students….) However, as a compromise, I will share some of the explanations meaningful purpose psychology offers to understand the “why” of the crisis; and suggest some steps to remedy the situation.

I wrote in my first book, The Path to a Meaningful Purpose; “…this book is concerned with answering why people too frequently make poor choices and what they can do to make better ones.” Elsewhere in the book I penned,

“I also believe that at the heart of humanity’s inability to solve its fundamental problems lies a lack of understanding of who we are and what we are here for. As a species, we suffer from an identity crisis. I firmly believe the field of psychology is called to make a special contribution to meet this challenge. As an outcome, my research and learning drove me to find the answers about our identity through four basic questions:Slide1

• Who am I?
• What matters in life?
• Why am I here?
• How do I go about fulfilling my life purpose?”

On my presentations on Meaningful Purpose Psychology and Leadership I often quote from the World Happiness Report that, “We increasingly understand that we need a very different model of humanity,….” There are a few of us that did get the memo and are taking an active part in solving this leadership problem. Many of us have taken to heart W. L. Bateman’s quote that “If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got.” So we pioneered and follow a promising meaningful purpose or logoteleological  approach.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein

(A point of clarification: this article assumes that one leads humans and manage things. Our discussion here is about leadership, not management.)

Who Gets in the Way?

Here are Seven Meaningless Leader Types that perpetuate the leadership problem (We can also call these the 7 Meaningless Leadership Sins):

  1. The Dismissive: It does not apply to me.
  2. The Arrogant: I know what is best for you/them. Change and adapt yourself to satisfy my approach and wishes, and all will be well.Slide4
  3. The Callous: I am doing okay and am ahead compared to others, so why should I change or care?
  4. The Righteous: Right is on my side.
  5. The Uncaring: I don’t care.
  6. The Pretender: I hear and feel your pain (but I am not going to get involved.)
  7. The Dictator: I am the boss. Do as I say.

Few individuals with these types of leadership practices will overtly claim the label. However, most people can recognize the symptoms and behaviors, however subtle. But it begs the question, why do the previous types follow the meaningless path?

The Four Existential Questions and Leadership

The ‘teleology’ in Logoteleology (meaningful purpose psychology) means that we are directed by meanings (logos) that are fulfilled by purposes (telos). Humans are goal-directed. The inability “to self-regulate” as explained in the above-mentioned 2014 Edelman Trust Report, is the outcome of goal-directed humans following meaningless meanings . As my clients and students have heard me say a number of times throughout the years – we have a leadership crisis because – consciously and unconsciously — we mean to. Period.

I mean, therefore I purpose. ~ Luis A. Marrero

Logoteleology: A Solution

Meaningful purpose psychology came into being to research, verify, and offer a different, pragmatic, and meaningful solution to the self-regulation problem. The emphasis on competence building – the “how” of leadership– is insufficient. As we have been saying for over two decades, the answer lies on having the “how” agenda be steered by meaningful “why’s”. My clients and students have also heard me say that it is very difficult to solve psychological problems purely through awareness, knowledge and skill building. I propose that psychological problems — particularly existential ones — could benefit from a meaningful purpose psychology approach. That is why I am pleased to see fellow authors, practitioners and psychologists pay more attention to the subject of meaning and purpose. It is long overdue. I am also very pleased by the positive attention meaningful purpose psychology has received since I published my first book in 2013.

The solution we offer is simple, and psychologically sound. While I do not have the space to write everything that can be said about the subject, let me briefly make reference to a few key psychological concepts. These psychological concepts and theories, amongst others, help explain the central role the four existential questions play in meaningful purpose psychology, and – more important – clarify why they are relevant.
Who am I? It answers: What do I believe is true about me; and what defines me?

o Self-concept: A person’s mental model of his or her abilities and attributes.
o Self-definition: definition of one’s identity, character, abilities, and attitudes, especially in relation to persons or things outside oneself or itself.
o Self-esteem: A generalized evaluative attitude toward the self that influences both moods and behaviors and that exerts a powerful effect on a range of personal and social behaviors
o Self-perception theory: The idea that people observe themselves in order to figure out the reasons they act as they do. People infer what their internal states are by perceiving how they are acting in a given situation.

What matters? It answers: What is important in life and at this moment?

o Self-expectations: Expectancy theory proposes that an individual will decide to behave or act in a certain way because they are motivated to select a specific behavior over other behaviors due to what they expect the result of that selected behavior will be. In essence, the motivation of the behavior selection is determined by the desirability of the outcome.

• What is my purpose? It answers: What will I accomplish in my life or through this task as a result of what matters to me?

o Self-determination: how we control our behavior by using our convictions and internal demands (i.e., What matters? Or self-expectations) and without outside influence. Also called self-direction.
o Teleology: “A human teleology suggests people behave for the sake of reasons, purposes, and intentions.” (Rychlack, Joseph F. 1994)

• How do I succeed? It answers: How can I remain committed to fulfill my life or task purpose?

o Self-efficacy: The set of beliefs that one can perform adequately in a particular situation. The confidence that one has the competence to succeed.
o Self-regulation: Control by oneself or itself. Self-regulation entails subset operations:
 – Self-Observation: being self-aware
 – Self-Reflection: A feedback process that entails:

Self-Reference: Where am I in relation to my goal?
Self-Evaluation: Am I on target?

Logoteleology and Self-Regulation

Remember Richard Edelman’s 2014 Trust Report expressing “concerns about business’ ability to self-regulate”? And who runs business? Leaders do. Hence, having reviewed some of the psychological theories supporting the four existential questions, let’s deal with the leadership self-regulation problem.

How would you or leaders in your organization answer the following questions?
1. As a leader, who are you? What is your leadership mental model (your abilities and attributes, which include your character)? How do people describe you as a leader?
Self-concept is best understood when the individual can incorporate her or his answers from the next three questions.
2. As a leader, what matters? What values influence your decision making? Do people matter; or are they first and foremost impersonal and disposable consumers, clients, suppliers, employees, and victims of collateral damage? Are you a wise and efficient business person who can achieve robust business results while being humane? Or does your behavior reveal that achieving healthy business results and being humane are contradictory expectations? Do you stand for something meaningful and worthwhile; and would others agree? (Feel free to read my post, “What is Meaningful? And why knowing matters?”)
3. As a leader, what is your purpose? Does your leadership purpose and brand add value to all stakeholders or just a few? How do your values from the previous question shape your leadership purpose and approach? What values guide your ability to “self-regulate”? What is the legacy of your current leadership aims and guidance?
4. As a leader, how do you succeed? Has your leadership made you so popular that people are competing for your attention in order to be coached, mentor and led by you? What objective and meaningful criteria do you use to measure your impact on others? Are you able to remain aligned with what is meaningful and self-correct when you deviate and fail? Do you have meaningful staying power?

The Practical Existential Leader

The Meaningful Purpose Leader is a pragmatic and purposeful individual who is able to allow others, to cooperate, and to transcend; or to be altruistic. To Slide2describe these behaviors I use the acronym ACT. Quoting from my book,
Allowing is the act of supporting others’ inherent right to achieve their individuality and potential.
Cooperation is the practice of shared interdependence or mutual aid toward a common purpose.
Transcendentalism is a selfless act where a person rises above or goes beyond what is expected in the service of others. An appropriate synonym for transcendentalism is altruism, or the selfless concern for others.

The Practical Existential Leader gets results using the ACT and their related competencies to build meaningful and willingly engaged coalitions to achieve a common noble purpose. These noble competencies are willed and legitimized by meaningful beliefs, values, feelings, attitudes, attributes and aims (i.e., meanings).

The point is that we all have the power to choose between the meaningful and the meaningless; and when we make the right choice; we start the process of becoming a true, upright and meaningful existential leader. After all, why would you want to be part of the problem? Why persist in doing the insane, as suggested by Albert Einstein on the quote above?

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Viktor E. Frankl

We all have the power of choice. To lead, there are the paths for the meaningful or the meaningless. What is your leadership path?

Licensed Meaningful Purpose Psychology practitioners (logoteleologists) work with individuals and organizations to help them discard meaningless and unproductive leadership practices, and replace them with productive and meaningful behaviors and results. If you or members of your organization wish to become a Meaningful Purpose Leader, you can contact me at the Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose (www.bostonimp.com).

Rychlack, Joseph F. Logical Learning Theory: A Human Teleology and Its Empirical Support. Lincoln. University of Nebraska. 1994. p. 322
©2014. Luis A. Marrero, Boston Institute for Meaningful Purpose


3 thoughts on “Leadership Déjà Vu

  1. Pingback: Monitoring and Improving the Impact of Your Leadership | authorluismarrero

  2. Pingback: Engagement cannot be Pursued. It ensues: A logoteleological perspective | authorluismarrero

  3. Pingback: Engagement: Test Question | authorluismarrero

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