How have you seen a leader’s style impact the team, negatively or positively?
Read the passage below and answer the 4 questions at the end.
IN THE CLASSIC STORY OF “THE WIZARD OF OZ,” DOROTHY ILLUSTRATES A NEW KIND OF LEADER. SHE INVITES HER FRIENDS ON A JOURNEY, HELPS THEM DISCOVER THEIR GIFTS, ENCOURAGES THEM AND WALKS WITH THEM RATHER THAN INSISTING ON BEING UP FRONT. SHE DOESN’T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS, BUT SHE GETS THEM TO THEIR GOAL.
One of my favorite memories as a kid was watching the movie The Wizard of Oz on television. It came on every year. We would pop popcorn and sit around as a family watching Dorothy, the scarecrow, the tin man and the cowardly lion leave the munchkins in the Land of Oz and make their way to the Emerald City. I still enjoy the movie. It’s a classic.
Today, however, I watch it through a different lens. I sat with my own kids a few years ago and learned all kinds of new things from Dorothy—as I watched the film from a leadership perspective. (I know it sounds crazy, but I seem to find leadership principles in almost every movie I see, including Dumb and Dumber and Napoleon Dynamite!) This time, my leadership discovery came from a very ordinary girl from Kansas who would not claim to be a leader at all.
As I observe trends in our culture, it seems to me that there is a cry for a new kind of leader today. We have moved through various leadership styles over the last fifty years, and many of them can be seen in this classic movie. Reflect on the characters in the movie for a moment, and note the three kinds of leaders in it:
1. THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST She has her cronies, but they follow because she forces them to do so. She leads from manipulation or coercion. In fact, when she melts, her followers celebrate.
2. THE WIZARD OF OZ He is the all-powerful leader who leads through intimidation and superiority. He is all-wise and all-powerful—the kind of leader we all tend to imagine is the best one for the job.
3. DOROTHY She is an unlikely leader who doesn’t have all the answers but invites her friends on a journey, helps them discover their gifts and walks with them rather than insisting on being up front.
At first glance, Dorothy appears all wrong as a model of leadership. I am certain she never felt like she was a leader. She doesn’t fit the gender stereotype, and she’s quite young. Instead of being a person who has all the solutions and knows exactly what to do next—she is herself on a journey, a seeker, often bewildered and vulnerable. Yet she is determined to get her team—made up of a scarecrow, a tin man and a cowardly lion—to the wizard, where they can find what they’re looking for. Armed with this resolve, she walks down the yellow brick road on a journey of discovery with her newfound friends. No one expects her to have all the answers. They don’t want a “sage on the stage,” but a “guide on the side” to help them reach their goal.
Let’s contrast Dorothy with the Great Wizard himself. Frequently, many of us avoid leadership positions because we hold an image of a leader in our heads that looks much like the Wizard of Oz. Remember how he introduces himself? He says, “I am Oz, the great and powerful!” In other words—just look to me for any answers you need. I am in charge. Because few of us believe we’re really this good, we conclude we must not be a leader. But, do you remember what happens in the end? Little Toto (Dorothy’s dog) pulls back the curtain to reveal that the Great Wizard is a rather normal guy hiding behind an imposing image. This all-powerful leader was, in a sense, exposed as a fraud. He wasn’t a Superman or a Lone Ranger after all. It’s all a front.
When you think of Dorothy, the picture is so different. She introduces herself to the Wizard as “Dorothy, the small and meek.” Instead of sitting confident in a control booth, she’s stuck in a predicament—still a little frazzled from the tornado, far from home, needing to find the way. As she begins her journey to the Emerald City, she finds other needy characters (the scarecrow, the tin man and the lion) and her earnestness, compassion and spark of determination galvanize them into a team. She ends up revealing that they each had the brains, the heart and the courage they were seeking already inside of them. Dorothy doesn’t have the knowledge to help them avoid all the pitfalls or dangers. She doesn’t protect them from all the threats—but she encourages them, and she doesn’t give up. Her passion holds strong and fosters the same resolve in each of her team members. Dorothy has so invested in them that the lion, the scarecrow and the tin man all decide they will get to the Wizard to help Dorothy—even if they don’t get what they want! Now that’s loyalty.
This is a picture of a new kind of leader for our culture today. It was a team effort, and no one person was the only star. Each one stood up for the others before it was over. Each one had gifts and abilities. Dorothy simply ran point.
Management guru Peter Drucker notes that these “next-generation leaders” must be okay with not having all the answers. They must be humble enough to seek wisdom from others, yet courageous enough to act when it’s time. Drucker suggests that “the leader of the past was a person who knew how to tell. The leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask.” They are marked by these qualities:
1. HIGHLY RELATIONAL
2. INTERPRET CULTURE WELL
3. EMOTIONALLY SECURE
4. SHARE OWNERSHIP FREELY
5. EMPOWER OTHERS
6. COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY
7. LISTEN AND FOSTER SELF-DISCOVERY
8. EMBRACE THE ROLE OF A MENTOR
9. LESS FORMAL IN STRUCTURE
10. DRIVEN BY SERVICE MORE THAN EGO
I believe I see these Dorothy-type leaders in more and more places. Truett Cathy and his executive team at Chick-fil-A restaurants demonstrate this humble, learning, serving style. They’re closed on Sundays so their employees can spend time with their families and in worship. They serve in teams and seek wisdom from those they serve, in order to continue to be a learning organization. They are all about adding value to their communities, not just selling chicken. David Salyers, their vice president of marketing, told me he went on a trip with Dan Cathy, who leads Chick-fil-A. When they arrived at their hotel, David realized his shirts had gotten wrinkled in his luggage. He told Dan he wished someone would invent luggage that wouldn’t wrinkle shirts! When he awoke in the morning, he saw that Dan Cathy had gotten up early and ironed all his shirts.
Earlier, I introduced you to Captain Michael Abrashoff. In six months, he transformed the worst-performing ship in the Pacific Ocean into the best-performing ship in the Pacific. How’d he do it? Dorothy’s Way. He interviewed all his sailors and got to know their strengths. He formed teams that became task forces to solve problems in the area of their strengths. When they did—the entire crew got to celebrate. Sailors loved following his leadership. He shared ownership of his ship’s problems and solutions and found he had capable men and women who could lead.
You can find these leaders all over the world. Just ask the employees at Japan Airlines. Their CEO is Haruka Nishimatsu, and his style is different than that of most CEOs you’ll meet. Many would argue that a private jet is a CEO’s perk. But not for Nishimatsu. He comes to work on a city bus. Merrill Lynch boss John Thain spent $1 million decorating his office. Nishimatsu knocked down his office walls so anyone can walk in. He buys his suits at a discount store, and when the economy forces paycuts, he is the first to take one. His reasoning? He explains that if management is distant and up in the clouds, everyone feels distant and waits for orders from the top. He develops his people to think for themselves. He wants the huge airline to feel and work like family, so you can find him popping into planes, chatting with flight attendants, even sorting the newspapers. If you have an idea as one of his employees—you can likely catch him in the company cafeteria at lunch. He wants his employees to feel like they are all in this thing together. His salary is not in the millions, but a conservative $90,000 a year. He says a CEO doesn’t motivate folks by how many millions he makes, but by convincing employees you’re all together in the same boat. And they’re all leaders, encouraging each other and working together as a team. Sounds like Dorothy’s Way to me.
Maybe some of us are trying hard to be something we’re not. Maybe we’re imitating styles of leadership that are outdated. Maybe those around us aren’t looking for a Wizard after all. And maybe the best thing that could happen to us would be to have someone pull back the curtain and reveal we aren’t superheroes, but regular men and women who want to take a journey and reach a destination with a team. I believe we’ll find we can do it if we lead Dorothy’s Way.
ANSWER THESE 4 QUESTIONS.
1. Typically, we tend to emulate the leadership style of the person who taught us to lead in our early years. Depending on their age and style, emerging leaders may adopt a style that is obsolete. How has this affected you or your team?
2. What styles of leadership have you seen modeled in your past?
3. How have you seen a leader’s style impact the team, negatively or positively?
4. How does Dorothy’s Way enable a leader to be what their team needs at any given moment?
Due Wednesday June 12, 2019