Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Book review on Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership: Selected writings by Peter Pruzan

Journal of Human Values
Volume 15, Issue 2
October 2009 issue, pp 199–201
Title of the book reviewed: Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership: Selected Writings
Author of the book: Peter Pruzan
Peter Lang AG, 2009, 322 pages, price: US$ 65.05, £ 38.00

Ethical and spiritual paradigms in organizational set-ups are becoming important considerations for academicians and business leaders today. Faith and fortune are now no longer envisaged to be mutually exclusive, and the role of spiritual quotient (SQ) in complementing IQ and EQ at the workplace is being increasingly acknowledged.

“Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership,” volume 7 of the Frontiers of Business Ethics series, is an anthology in which Pruzan showcases his writings over the last 20 years. The book is aimed at “reflective practitioners and theoreticians in the field of leadership philosophy.” The author explains this is not a ‘how to do it’ book nor a traditional textbook, but rather aims to provide reflective leaders with an insight into the significance of leadership-philosophical concepts, predominantly the concept that successful leadership is not restricted only to wealth generation, but also consists of contributing to the fulfillment of all those whom one serves as a leader. As the book unfolds, there is a discernible evolution in the author’s mindset from rational to ethical to spiritual perspectives on leadership.

Pruzan is the co-author of “Leading with Wisdom: Spiritual-based Leadership in Business,” an engaging book replete with case studies of 31 business leaders from 15 countries, bound by the common thread of being high achievers in their respective fields while operating from a spiritual basis. The introduction of this book is one example of Pruzan’s selected writings.

Although the book description on the back cover erroneously divides the book into seven interrelated themes, the book is in fact organized into six themes, as detailed by Pruzan in the preface, and as also reflected in the Table of Contents:-
1. Morals and ethics
2. Ethical accounting
3. Values and Leadership
4. Identity
5. Responsibility
6. Spiritual-based leadership

Each section begins with a short write-up in which the author explains the raison d’etre of the theme in relation to the evolution of his thoughts over the years, followed by an introductory essay to whet the reader’s appetite. As a second generation, middle class Jew born into a family in New York that put an overt emphasis on logic, Pruzan was drawn to metaphysical conjecture. He began delving into rationality, then morality, followed by ethics. In practical terms this spurred him on to begin various initiatives such courses in Maths and Business Economics and also in Philosophy and Business Economics at the Copenhagen Business School.
Pruzan’s visit to India in 1989 was a defining moment of personal spiritual awakening, and led him from “A path from myself to mySelf, a path from becoming to being, a path that ends where it begins, at the wellspring of rationality, morality and spirituality.”
In section one on Moral and Ethics questions raised include “What is ethics?” “Is it for the individual good or collective good? Pruzan concludes by saying that ethics is relative and that each subculture maintains its own set of values. He also writes about ethics as a tool for promoting consensus in organizations.
Pruzan questions the belief that ethics cannot coexist with free market competition. In fact he concludes just the opposite: that only if enterprises develop ethics can private initiatives survive in the long run.
In the context of business ethics in Denmark, Pruzan was instrumental in establishing the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy at the Copenhagen Business School in 1995. He writes, “Establishing a department with ‘philosophy’ was quite a revolutionary step for a business school.”
In part two, Ethical Accounting is described as being a symbiosis between theory and practice and is said to be based on values shared by an enterprise and its stakeholders, be they employees, shareholders or clients.
Part three is on Values and Leadership. In the first essay “When values are not money” Pruzan writes of how in our rush to achieve material wealth we forget existential wonder. He lucidly expresses this as, “It is paradoxical that it is liberation to feel duty bound; freedom is no longer the ability to do whatever I want to do, whenever I want; but intuitively to know what I should do and to have the courage to act accordingly.”
In this section it is acknowledged that socialization as a process is not just confined to the formative years of our childhood, but is also shaped at the workplace. Three perspectives of values are elucidated, namely internal focus (business ethics and human resource management), external focus (corporate branding and marketing) and a long-term business focus (corporate social responsibility and strategy). This section concludes that values-based management pays off, for example in retaining loyal employees, and that the language of money is too narrow.
The fourth section on Identity questions “Who am I?” with regard to the individual and the organization. It also focuses on questions such as does an organization have a consciousness? What is the conflict between economics and ecology and how can this be resolved?
The fifth section on Responsibility asks what is responsibility, can an organization be responsible and why be responsible in the first place? The answers presented include that responsibility should expand from controlling others to serving them. In this context wealth creation is purported not to be the goal, but the means for spiritual fulfillment and service to society.
Pruzan presents differences in life perspectives as: “… if life were a pie, spirituality would be one slice of the pie. From the spiritual-based perspective, however, spirituality is the pie itself. Work, family, leisure and health are all the ‘slices’ of spirituality, they are all contexts for growing spirituality.” True responsibility, he says, is not learned but is directly related to deep-rooted motivation from within.
In the sixth section on spiritual-based leadership, there is a discernible shift in Pruzan’s thoughts from an academician to a believer in a higher guiding principle. In this concluding part he challenges traditional managerial perspectives on leadership, which focus on the maximization of owner’s wealth. He dwells on developments in the theory and practice of leadership in Scandinavia and in India, while surmising that the best form of leadership is a combination of the Western approach to leadership with the Eastern values of an ideal leader, such as non-attachment, selflessness and santhi (having equanimity and peace of mind).
In these six sections of the book while many issues have been brought to the fore, certain questions remain unanswered, such as if true responsibility is not learned but is rather imbibed from inner self motivation, then how can an organizational head encourage all his team leaders to be responsible? Also, if ethics is relative to each subculture, then this could give rise to a conflict of ethics, in that the perception of what is right in one subculture can be interpreted as being intrinsically wrong in another. How can one reconcile this conflict?
The choice of topics, lucid language and the short selections make this book an interesting read for the discerning reader. A few more selections from the empirical study of his earlier book “Leading with Wisdom: Spiritual-based Leadership in Business,” would have been appropriate.
“Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership” is to a large extent an appropriate fit in the Frontiers of Business Ethics series, which aims to represent writings that convey a new ethical model for transforming business into humanistic, sustainable and peaceful forms. The selection of writings cover several issues, themes and questions which would be valuable to the business leader delving into this sphere for the first time. To the seasoned academician, however, many of the concepts such as that of ethical accounting and spiritual-based leadership (SBL) may not be new. There are several writings on SBL, one of the latest being “Understanding Leadership Perspectives
Theoretical and Practical Approaches” by Fairholm, Matthew R., Fairholm, Gilbert W, in which Leadership Perspectives are presented through five distinct orientations namely scientific management, excellence management, values leadership, trust cultural leadership, and spiritual leadership. Academics would also be familiar with the Hindu perspective on leadership values at the workplace, elucidated in detail by S K Chakraborty in “Ethics in Management: Vedantic Perspectives” as long ago as 1995.
What distinguishes this book from others of its ilk is the way in which Pruzan masterfully weaves intricate concepts with his own life experiences. It is through this that he is able to forge a new ethical model in which theory and practical converge.

Book review by Payal Kumar
Doctoral scholar, XLRI
Vice President, Editorial & Production
SAGE Publications India Pvt. Ltd

• Chakraborty S K “Ethics in Management: Vedantic Perspectives.” 1995. Oxford University Press
• Fairholm, Matthew R., Fairholm, Gilbert W “Understanding Leadership Perspectives Theoretical and Practical Approaches” 2009
• Pruzan P & Mikkelsen K P “Leading with Wisdom: Spiritual-based Leadership in Business,” 2007, New Delhi, SAGE India Publications


Reducing change management complexity: aligning change recipient sensemaking to change agent sensegiving

Kumar, P. and Singhal, M. (2012) ‘Reducing change management complexity: aligning change recipient sensemaking to change agent sensegiving’, Int. J. Learning and Change, Vol. 6, Nos. 3/4, pp.138–155.

Implementation of change in an organisation through culture can
elicit a wide array of reactions from organisational members, spanning from acceptance to resistance. Drawing on Hatch’s cultural dynamics model and on Wegner’s social theory of learning, this paper dwells on an underdeveloped area in the extant literature, namely understanding change from the perspective of the change recipient, and then analysing how this is linked to the broader framework of organisational change. It is suggested that in order to drive meaningful change strategy, change agents need to learn that sensegiving imparted by them needs to be closely aligned to the sensemaking of change recipients at three levels of analysis.

Let’s lean on the pillar of humility

Jesus paved the way, through his actions, to what management gurus today refer to as servant-leadership. His strength was in his utter simplicity and humility, epitomized by acts such as washing his disciples’ feet.
In contrast, so many academics I interact with as part of my profession, seem to believe that having acquired a lot of knowledge entitles them somehow to always brag about themselves. I was aghast when one Indian professor introduced himself at a workshop for doctoral scholars by saying, “I have been a brilliant student ….” Needless to say, his sleep-inducing monologue about his scholarly exploits continued for a good 20 minutes.
And yet, a few days later I was hosting dinner for two renowned scholars from the UK, who are on editorial boards of ranked journals. It was refreshing to witness their humility. The conversation hardly veered towards them and their academic successes, but rather, remained focused on the present research work they were conducting.
In the same vein, talking to an Indian professor I met at a conference recenty, when I jibed that he had the perfect resume, with St Stephens, Oxford university and Harvard university as his alma maters, he just shrugged, laughed and continued talking about his current research.
These cases beautifully illustrate an Indian saying that goes something like this: A pot that is half filled with water makes a lot of noise, but one that is full of water is silent.
A seasoned academic or researcher realizes after some time that no one individual can be the repository of all knowledge. Infact, the more one gets one’s teeth into research work, the more one realizes how little knowledge we as individuals have actually acquired. So let’s be humble about it! Jesus was.

The dark side of charismatic leadership

When we talk of leadership what we conjour up is a person more capable than others, who takes charge of people and processes. But is it in fact that simplistic?
In the academic frame of reference scholars have aggregated as many as 65 different types of leadership. The most apt definition I have come across is the one by P G Northouse, who refers to leadership as a process rather than a person: “Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal” (Leadership: Theory and Practice, SAGE, 2010). This is a pretty all-encompassing definition that applies equally well to the spiritual head of a monastery, an Army General or a corporate honcho.
Charismatic authority comes under the ambit of trait leadership. “Charisma” was defined by Weber as “a certain quality of an individual personality, by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.” Charismatic authority is powerful in that the leader is able to lead followers with such potency that the following may continue even posthumously (spiritual leaders come to mind here). And, yet as with every type of leadership, charismatic authority has a flaw or two.
If we transfer this leadership type to the workplace, there is no doubt that a charismatic leader would more often than not be able to achieve his end goal, as his skills, personality and virtues would tend to ensure that his team leaders are enthused enough about achieving this goal. But it could be argued that in terms of deliverables, other types of leadership, including the highly centralized and autocratic type, would also produce similar end results.
This raises the question: Is good leadership only about achieving a common goal? Is not the ‘how’ of achieving the results also important? There is indeed a dark side to charismatic authority that one needs to be aware of: Since the follower’s level of trust is so high, it may mesmerize to such an extent as to blind her to any weaknesses that the leader may have. Perhaps the term “blind follower” stems from this.
Ironically the very flaw of charismatic leadership lies in the essence of “charisma” itself. Let me explain. It follows that if a team member at the workplace is in awe of you as the leader, that she will always remain your follower. This goes against the Bruce Tuckman’s model of group development (Forming – Storming – Norming –Performing), in which a team leader is meant to first guide the team and find solutions and then eventually bring the team to a level of maturity in which perhaps the leader himself becomes dispensable, while of course delivering results. An effective leader in the workplace is one who mentors and creates more leaders, rather than simply mesmorize his followers.
And thus, in the corporate environment, it is the transformational leader – the one that causes positive change in the followers by gradually transforming them into leaders while achieving results – who ought to be respected (as opposed to revered). The leader who is able to both recognise and nuture the full potential of team members, who recognises that leadership is not just a process in which you influence a group of individuals to achieve a common goal, but is also about HOW you exert that influence. The leader who recognises that the journey is as important as the destination.