As we continue our doctoral studies at George Fox, we learn many theories and definitions about leadership. What it is the leadership perspective? “As far as leadership studies go, it seems that more and more has been studied about less and less, to end up ironically with a group of researchers studying everything about nothing.” Do we use the Bible as a guide for this ministry degree on leadership or do we rely on our personal biases of the numerous leadership resources? Earlier in the semester, we read that leadership revolves around “getting the right people on the bus” (Jim Collins). However, Vries tells us that his objective for studying leadership “is to bring the person back into the organization” (p. XIX), which says that leadership involves a working relationship. Now this is interesting, should the people be on or off the bus. I just left a John Maxwell conference where he stated that “Growth is the only guarantee that tomorrow will get better.” This tells me that even if I believe the right people are on the bus, I am forced to get them off the bus if they lack leadership development. In Hirschman’s book Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, he suggests that when customers are dissatisfied with a product, they can use their ‘voice’ to complain about it or choose to ‘exit’ to find the product somewhere else.
After reading The Leadership Mystique, I asked myself this question. Is it possible that our leadership problem results from CEOs treating leaders like products and resort to replacing people rather than developing them? Vries is clear that while some leaders are self-motivated to become productive, others struggle to improve their effectiveness. The term Cognitive Resource Theory focuses on how leaders respond to stress based on the leader’s intelligence and experience. Vries spoke on the clinical methodology in his approach, which I believe is essential in leadership. Imagine if Phil told his youth pastor (Kevin) he has one month to improve job performance or he will be fired. Does Kevin come to work and try to improve his job or does he start looking for a new job? As leaders, it is our responsibility to create an environment that this safe (or risk-free). If the people we lead or the ones we want to lead feels threatened (daily), they will eventually become incapable of leading well.
I get it; we need emotional intelligence because it “helps eliminate cognitive and emotional distortions, and helps individuals to recognize their feelings and use them more effectively” (p. 26). However, when a leader’s effectiveness diminishes, do we replace them as a consequence or do we replace ourselves for making a poor leadership decision in the first place? Vries provided a different perspective for me because it provided another way of seeing leadership. In the 21st century, “major demographic shifts are taking place, including ever-growing urbanization and growth in what the West likes to term ‘minority groups,’” (p. 164). In theory, leaders have the solution based on academics and experiences. However, there’s a new trend where culture is now shaping how we engage people and how we lead our organizations. “Global leaders must create multicultural organizational communities” (p. 192) to experience effectiveness. Vries shows us that leadership relies on culture and a cognitive approach to leading well.
Leadership is a journey, and on that journey, we need elasticity to stretch from theory to reality and tradition to the unconventional. We need emerging practices to remain relevant as we monitor the changes in the human behavior of the people we lead. Vries does not suggest replacing old leadership habits, but we should ignore the culture and cognitive shift of the people we lead in our organization.