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Grace Under Pressure - Psychology e-book leadership course

World Class Leadership Course

“There are no bad regiments in the French Army -- although  some regiments  fail because they are commanded by bad colonels.”

 Napoleon Bonaparte -- Maxims Of War

Wild Ducks

          Some years ago I heard what was soon to become the death rattle of a great industrial civilization. I heard it in the angry voices of two factory owners who were at their wits end. In Sydney, Australia, one furious executive shouted that the only way to restore employee commitment would be to line his striking workers against a wall and shoot every third one.

          His American counterpart in Minneapolis wasn’t so bloody minded but he was no less frustrated by his failure to win the commitment of his workers. He yearned for a major economic depression to return them to their senses so they would never again challenge his decisions. His business would suffer and his earnings decline, he admitted, but he felt it would be worth it emotionally to get the labor issue settled once and for all. He may have had his wish granted, since his company is now working at half capacity and is struggling to survive as his sons now compete with products coming from China, Japan, India, Brazil and even from an awakened and ambitious Vietnam. For we are no longer competing with ourselves -- with firms who are making the same fundamental mistakes inherent in a lockstep approach, but with hungry achievers who are coming on line abundant resources and deeply committed people.

          I took neither man seriously, since they were both half out of their minds with frustration and were obviously venting their fears and frustrations -- but as they blustered, it became painfully obvious that neither executive understood the challenge nor had the wisdom and the grace to cope with the events occurring across Western Civilization. Neither owner had a sound vision for ending the crippling adversary relationships that make many American, Australasian and British businesses more and more vulnerable. Too few men and women in leadership positions have captured a vision of what a committed community of achievers can accomplish. A great many companies remain trapped in an antiquated philosophy of leadership that depends on interpersonal power and rigid control and when that fails, they become vulnerable because of increasing world competition.

Grace Under Pressure - Psychology e-book leadership course          We, in the Western World, still suffer greatly from the massive leadership failure documented in Harvard Business Review some years past. Of course it is ironic that more recent Harvard researchers criticized the tightly scripted industrial engineering approach to management that their predecessors in the Harvard Business School invented a generation or so ago. The fill in the blanks -- connect the dots, Harvard engineering and reengineering approach used managers and workers as if they were emotionless robots. Workers were paid the absolute survival minimum and worked relentlessly until they malfunctioned. The so called rational approach that ignored emotions and ethics and excluded morality from a nihilistic philosophy of business, consumed people who were then replaced as if tools of production that failed.

It seemed cost effective to use up workers and to replace those who faltered with machines that never argue or want more money. Actually, dealing successfully with ego-centric humans is a challenging business that bad managers and executives strive desperately to avoid at all costs.


          The Harvard approach trained plug-in executives who could shift effortlessly from one product or service to another as the best possible approach to fast stock market profits -- whether manufacturing hair driers, paint or canning peaches. The Harvard approach was always about winning on Wall Street with swift stock market killings and never about producing great products or valuable services and letting a company’s excellence persuade investors to stay committed over the long term. Many executives lose their jobs because the company suffered a bad year on Wall Street but few if any have ruined their careers by producing second or third rate products. This nihilistic philosophy of service to society worked reasonably well for dysfunctional organizations that produced shoddy goods and services. The managers could follow the lock step procedures laid down by ideological professors who never met a payroll or walked a production floor and the cash cow would give milk and cream forever. Unfortunately, the old girl grew weary and gave up the ghost when a host of international players appeared on stage and elbowed their day into the chow line. Until now, General Motors automobiles and vans suffer as many failures after three years on the road as Toyotas and Hondas have during their seventh year of service. More and more companies have become wholesalers who produce nothing of their own but pass foreign goods off to the public with their own brand names pasted on. Chrysler has managed to survive by teaming up with Mercedes while General Motors is considering a consortium with European and Asian firms in order to remain viable in the world market. Or possibly Ford and G M may combine forces in order to survive by cutting design and production costs significantly. Everything is still about the all crucial quarterly report in order to placate institutional shareholders. Very little is about manufacturing excellence although no one wants to make shoddy goods. It is just that when push comes to shove financially, the accountants on the top floor go for the stock market fast buck every time.

The computerized reengineering approach became an item of faith, was the standard ideology revered by many who lacked the vision that sophisticated leaders apply to create effective communities of achievers. It seemed good enough to break every task down to its mind-numbing elementals, to pay the peons just enough to keep them from starving and to follow the industrial engineering lock steps to mediocrity on the world’s stage when our competitors are offering increasing excellence through their products and services.

          There certainly has been no great desire to follow the wild ducks who ride the cold north wind of commerce to great heights with their organizations. These swift birds of passage upset domesticated barnyard fowl terribly with their fierce passions. Lee Iacocca carried his youthful fascination with speed to fruition when he saved an even then struggling Ford Motor Company with the original Mustang sports car. He mass produced a twenty-nine hundred dollar low tech donkey that could blow off forty thousand dollar Porsche thoroughbreds on any race track in America. He build them in several variants -- from six cylinder butterflies for elderly ladies who wanted a town coupe -- to fire-breathing dragons for white knuckle racing. I know, I bought one of the four speed, over-carbureted, disc braked beasts that was sprung like a British ox cart for my wife Roberta on her thirtieth birthday. We made swift passages along the back roads through the Rocky Mountains and around the Great Lakes for years in bellowing glory. Thank you Lee Iacocca for many glorious memories imprinted on our psyches while in four wheel drifts near the limit of adhesion!

          Then, there was Mary Kay with her cosmetics empire who developed an entirely new way of transforming fifty cents worth of simple ingredients into glamorous lipsticks and rouges and she did it with flair and great fun -- with girls-only house parties and gifts of flamingo pink Cadillac's for her committed achievers. Mary Kay was a sophisticated leader who really understood the social and sensual interests of women who party together, recapture a bit of romance at home and buy more of her cosmetics line than they had planned!

          Dutch Kindleberger transcended the law of gravity by first designing and building the world class B - 25 bombers that James Doolittle’s boys flew to Tokyo and the evergreen P - 51 fighter from scratch on clean sheets of engineering paper. You could see the fighter parked on a tarmac at dawn and know that it was the best of the breed. That was for practice -- Dutch then went on to jets such as the F - 86 and the F - 100 and to create earth shaking rocket engines that could power towering space ships to escape velocity at his Rocket dyne Division of North American Aviation. He literally made the mountains quake! Dutch loved aircraft and he loved men and women who were thrilled by his Mad Max vision of powering Americans to the moon. Dutch would salivate at nights over his drawing board. I know -- I did quality assurance on his X - 15 and the air breathing Navaho scram jet for two summers when I was teaching science at Cincinnati’s Sayler Park School. For years I treasured a small medallion which included aluminum taken from the Eagle that Neil Armstrong had landed on the moon. Walking upright through the massive ram jet engines of the Navaho was never just a summer job for this former science instructor who sent ten times as many kids into science and technical careers as his predecessor.

          And don’t forget Willy Davidson who quipped that a fellow who has only one motorcycle couldn’t consider himself much of a biker. Willy knew what his customers wanted and served them so well with his rumbling 1915 technology Hogs, that Harley Davidson is now worth more on the stock market than General Motors. I doubt that the Harvard gurus ever pondered why the Dupont executives who destroyed the Indian Motorcycle Company, failed so miserably with their plug-in management approach. The executives made bad financial decisions and a series of bad motorcycles that few riders would buy. Willy and his posse didn’t survive with clever Wall Street scams after Indian collapsed -- they did it the old fashioned way -- they earned it after Willy and other motorcycle enthusiasts snatched Harley Davidson back from the Brunswick executives who were following the Dupont crew to disaster by building bad machines. You might say that both companies were saddled with bad colonels, but Willy and his guys rescued his namesake.

          Those were committed people, who multiplied their passions through their people and not one of the wild ducks, who rode the cold north wind ahead of their flocks, would have been worth a hill of beans at making clothespins or peddling sugar water to teenagers. All of them were passionate achievers who had the dual leadership ability to manage resources and relationship well.

Unfortunately, our deepening American leadership failure has included a greedy loss of vision of what creative men and women of passion and a commitment to greatness can achieve when they become committed leaders.


          It is well past time to put that failure behind us, to harness the human element understood by successful leaders, by embracing and capitalizing on the universal desire of men and women to find meaning for themselves and to make their lives count in purposeful activities with their resources and through their relationships. Fortunately, I am finding signs that more perceptive Western managers are beginning to understand how commitment and excellence can be jump-started in our organizations. I surely do see it emerging from the women entrepreneurs now taking significant roles in our society.  Most men have traditionally followed the Harvard paint-by-the-numbers approach, using a universal system for earning money but not especially caring whether they are working with garbage, grain, coal or with the American banking system’s money -- so long as the monthly report is good. On the other hand, most women going into business for themselves, choose areas of service where they feel a sense of meaning and purpose that lifts them beyond a satisfactory bank account in return for their accomplishments. When they reach home and family at the end of the work week, many more women than men want to feel they have contributed to society in some significant manner in addition to creating their own wealth.

          For years I taught courses about the need to harness commitment and creativity, to manage resources and relationships -- to the budding executives in the Executive Development Conference at the University of Arizona at Tucson. I acknowledged the need for greater government cooperation, for improved technology, for lower interest rates, and for freedom from the tyranny of the monthly report. I then insisted that a new philosophy of leadership is needed to better utilize the reservoir of often untapped human ability that exists in every organization. In my courses, I told each group of two dozen or so fast-track executives from Saudi Arabia, France, Latin America, Australia, England, Brazil and the United States, that we must turn our organizations into surrogate communities in which people invest the very stuff of their lives at tasks or in relationships that are meaningful to them personally. I concluded by saying that in no other way could an executive or manager further a career effectively.

There is a point to this, and I cannot help but recall it every time I hear managers and executives talking about the lack of commitment offered them by their employees:

Because men and women almost always continue holding the attitudes and completing the activities that reward them personally, while avoiding the attitudes and ending the activities that devalue or deprive them of benefits, every management team receives the level of performance from the employees that the leadership group consistently reinforces in some tangible or intangible manner.

Unfortunately, in our American and European nations, frequently the level of commitment is neither what the leadership wanted nor expected.

There are no bad regiments: There are only bad colonels! 

This course is about becoming a more successful leader by harnessing what we now know about effectiveness and efficiency. The research is in -- any group that becomes what I call a community of achievers can maintain its level of productivity with a significant reduction in labor costs, in floor space, and with in inventory. Any manager who cannot build a career on that improvement probably has no business cluttering the territory!


Tell what you think the author means when he writes that every management team receives the level of commitment that the leaders consistently reward.
In the physical or resource aspects of leadership.
 In the psychological or relational aspects of leadership
Does your group received the degree of commitment expected from the use of a sound quid pro quo?

If you answer yes, why does your reward system succeed?

If your answer is no, why does your reward system fail?


          Leon Trotsky, the old Soviet ideologue, is not widely respected by large numbers of Americans but he made several statements that bring into focus some of the major challenges faced by managers in an era of constant turmoil. During the confusion and aggression of the Russian Revolution, the Old Bolshevik said that anyone who wanted only to be left alone in peace to do his work had chosen a terrible time in which to be born. He also concluded that trying to reorganize a society was much like trying to revitalize a cemetery. Trotsky was correct on both counts, for deep within all kinds of organizations is the deeply rooted desire to keep things as they were when the members first learned them. We do indeed want to preserve our vested interests without interference or loss. Many people live with the illusion that humans enjoy change. The fact is, however, that we seldom want important things to change unless the benefits are immediate and personally profitable. Even when there is an obvious advantage to accepting new challenges, many people have difficulty adjusting to some new use of resources and relationships. For example, the sports and entertainment industries have rewarded many athletes and performers who were unable to successfully handle sudden fame and wealth. In many business and professional organizations, rapid change can have similar disruptive results when people are forced, frequently against their will, to deal with new resources and relationships they resent. Many resist for so long that the organizations are destroyed as the great English historian, Lord McCauley, wrote several hundred years ago.

He wrote:

Every great civilization, nation, noble family, corporation and community eventually commits suicide by creating so many selfish, vested interest groups that it cannot adapt when great changes occur and the entire group must adapt swiftly or perish.

He went on to reveal that while there are always hungry and younger societies waiting in the wings to take over, all but one or two of the twenty two civilizations that left their footprints on earth, collapsed from their own internal contradictions and conflicts.

          Managers and professionals like dentists, attorneys, and physicians, who are responsible for rewarding their employees to achieve together, are frequently the causes of many problems in their own organizations. They yearn, often unconsciously, to continue working through the concepts and skills they learned in the beginning. They do so because changes in relationships, techniques, and responsibilities force us to rethink ideas we already mastered, and to adapt when it seems obvious that we usually want others to do the adapting in our organizations.

For example, several years ago, when the decline of large automobile engines became obvious, one young manager was called to a meeting where he was told that his test group would be evaluating the reliability of the Chrysler Corporation's new power plant for domestic sales. When he asked about the engine, he found it to be a massive thing that produced more than 300 horsepower with a commensurate fuel consumption. He protested that the competition was adjusting to rising fuel costs by developing fuel-efficient engines and that Chrysler should be doing the same thing. His manager immediately pinned him to the wall and told him to keep his mouth shut and follow orders if he wanted to keep his job. The young manager thought about the potential consequences of resisting change despite fuel costs and soon started a career in another industry. And Chrysler's small automobile came on the market with an engine and transmission from Germany because the massive V-8 engine was an anachronism that few customers would buy.

To this day, General Motors and Ford are having trouble manufacturing automobiles that American customers will purchase and Chrysler has bonded with the Mercedes Group of Germany in order to survive.


          The resistance to change that so complicates the work of managers and supervisors is much more than a conscious determination to keep things as they were in the past. According to scholars like Konrad Lorenz and Carl Jung, our resistance may well be rooted in the evolution of humankind, in the development of Western Civilization itself, and in the manner in which work groups have long been managed in our society.

          As our civilization grew in size and complexity, humans developed the technology needed to prosper and the interpersonal relationships necessary for success. In other words, our ancestors created both the hardware (the resources) and the software (the relationships) of achievement. The hardware included tools, plant lay-out, weapons, clothes, etc. The software included the psychology and the philosophy needed to work successfully in groups, to distribute rewards equitably, and to avoid unnecessary conflict within each community. We must balance the use of software and hardware if our organizations are to prosper as our competitors do more and more often now.

          In many cases, an organization begins as an entrepreneurial enterprise that prospers in that form as long as the founder uses both good hardware and software to serve clients well. In time, the small organization grows beyond the ability of the entrepreneur to control everything, so either the transition to professional management is made or the company crumbles at the death of the dynamic founder. However, it has only been in the last few decades that we have come to understand that there is a drawback to professionally managed organizations that do not change as society changes. For example, when an organization becomes so large or so complex that people feel lost in its activities, confused about its objectives, and resentful of its impersonal approach, the organization has peaked. At that point, to become optimally successful, the management team must regain the community spirit that has so frequently been destroyed through the development of impersonal systems, a division of labor, and the rest of the Industrial Engineering/Harvard Business School approach.

          In communities where men build ships for their sons and nephews to fish in or fight from, quality is never a problem. When people are hired to build products -- or small parts of products for a faceless consumer market, or for managers they do not know because they are away soaring like falcons in a deserted forest, quality and productivity are certain to be consistent problems. And therein hangs a tale for ambitious managers and supervisors who believe there is a better way to work in their organizations.

          Business has become too complex to believe that profit alone is the measure of how well an organization is serving its clients and utilizing its employees. Joseph Juran, the quality specialist who, with W. Edwards Deming, gave Japan the tools they needed to prosper with small inventories in their production organizations, has blamed our leadership failure on the finance specialists of our organizations. In their pursuit of short-term profit, they neglected the quality and productivity that would have created long-range growth for their organizations. In all fairness, the finance wizards were only doing what their owners hired them to do, and since they seldom had any production or service experience, our performance calamity caught them unawares. Unfortunately, the belief that the bottom line rather than growth is crucial was accepted by the smaller organizations of our society as well.

          A more reliable measure of success that far transcends the quarterly statement is a manager's ability to increase productivity and quality enough to capture more of the market without a proportional increase in expenses. Scholars like David Tansik, Edwin Flippo, and Peter Drucker report that we have come as far as possible without a restoration of creativity, a rebirth of the human element in our organizations. And that is the last thing many executives who would like to treat employees as inventory want to hear.

          We must remember that we suffered our massive leadership failure while using the best administrative systems ever devised. Unfortunately, these were never enough and certainly more troublesome than inanimate resources -- while our less sophisticated competitors around the world harnessed the human strengths that can make many organizations strong, vibrant and productive!

          Fortunately, the behavioral sciences, especially the research of psychology and sociology, have matured past traditional concepts to identify and teach methods that can restore to any organization the achievement that it deserves. An entire nation did that after the most disastrous defeat in its history. Japanese men and women at all levels of responsibility worked very hard to reach what first seemed to be impossible goals. They were forced to rebuild an industrial civilization in which ninety percent of its significant cities had been burned to the ground. Obviously, I think that the time has now come when a great many Western managers must learn how to better lead their organizations’ relationships to increase productivity and quality. To succeed in the post-cold war, global business climate, each manager must best utilize the organization's hardware and software, the resources and relationships to produce goods or services that will serve the market well. This means that few companies will become optimally successful without a conscious dedication to service through its products and its people. To do that well will require that each manager and supervisor learn as much as possible about human personality, productivity, and motivation and use the new concepts effectively.

          One of the worst things that a manager can do, when clinging to an antiquated concept of productivity and success, is to pretend that interpersonal power is still held by managers when it is not. The pretense of power, like most other mistaken assumptions, leads to making decisions that harm many organizations. Men and women seem, too often, to confuse prestige and privilege with power. They accept corner offices, reserved parking places, and decorated dining rooms, but they accept the mediocre performance that the employees collectively grant them. And in the many companies where the pretense of power limits the esteem and commitment of the workers, the workers have not been especially generous to shortsighted managers. In fact, they have skinned many of them and hung their scalps out to dry!

          To succeed in the post-cold war, global business climate, each manager must utilize the organization's hardware and software, the resources and relationships to produce goods or services that will serve the market well. This means that few companies will become optimally successful without a conscious dedication to service through its products and its people. To do that well will require that each manager and supervisor learn as much as possible about human personality, productivity, and motivation and use the new concepts effectively. Of course, that is what GRACE UNDER PRESSURE is all about.


Write a paragraph or two telling how you would utilize those elements the author calls the hardware of production and the software of achievement in your organization.

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