Monthly Archives: September 2011

Trackbacks: “Ethics and Responsibility on Campus”, a debate!

Will and Rishi,

I see two things in this argument: Penn State students who don’t need annual tuition increases of more than 3%, and the need to create an efficient job maket. First, I think the American higher ed system has gotten a little whacked out in recent years -for a lot of reasons, but one of them being the cost. My sophomore year room mate had to leave University Park because he could no longer afford the cost, and honestly, I regret that it had to happen. He grew up in poverty, and University Park could have been his ticket out of that. Furthermore, you can probably understand that from a financial perspective, even as little as $3000 a year extra in tuition costs can result in years of crippling interest payments that I’m not sure many seniors in high school would fully grasp when they sign off on the loan. Second, as far as jobs go; who’s to say that the same people couldn’t work for the outsourced company? And more than that, if Penn State becomes a more efficient institution, then we’ll expand faster (hard to believe, lol), and will eventually create more jobs. And who knows; maybe outsourcing would free up labor for new industry in the State College area. If the University is run well (which I honestly do believe that it is already run very well), then it is only a matter of time before the scope of the State College economy and job market expands.

It’s tough though, because the University is dealing with real people who have real families, and honestly, I would never want to be the person who tells someone to find a new job. Rishi, I admire your sentiment on this one. Here’s a question though: could the University transform its energy and food services supply chain to save the money that outsourcing would? With all the lights that get left on, and all the food that gets thrown out, I wonder how great the potential is.

The Effective Leader

After three years at Penn State and two in the PLA, how would you now define the traits of an effective leader?

 

After 2 years in the PLA and as a student in the Smeal College of Business, I find myself ripe with definitions and examples of “effective” leadership, but I would argue that we seldom see truly great leadership today, and I will tell you why.  Character traits, learned abilities, and knowledgebase will, no doubt, contribute to one’s success and failure as a manager, but great leadership has a lot more to do with the leader’s response to the world around him: how will he choose to relate to his peers, but more than anything, his willingness to accept responsibility for the state of the world today.

Great leadership is twofold: good management and heroic responsibility (the former being in my mind the greater of the two). Good management is the process of motivating others to become part of a collective in order to conquer something of consequence. We know this because, logically, if you choose to exert influence on another individual, it must be either for good or for bad (corruption) in one degree or another. If it is for good, then it only makes sense that the leader is driven to complete the task even more than the subject would be, and it is in his best interest to create subjects who share that drive too (because motivation will inevitably inspire efficiency). Now, we need only ask ourselves what it takes to cause someone else to conform to our own ideology and goals. I would argue that it takes two things: first, to convince them that the source (the leader) is rational and virtuous (because it would seem that human nature is prone to being inspired by heroism), and second, that the goal is in line with (of high importance within) the subject’s own value system. In my experience, achieving the second will always be made harder by the absence of the first. In order for teams to function properly, authority -whether higher or equal -needs to be respected, and yet this is one of the most difficult predicaments: authority must be respected, and yet if it is to be respected, it can never be demanded; it must always be earned. This summer I had the pleasure of getting to know some Air Force Academy cadets, who were always eager to share with me the anecdotes of the authority structure that they lived in. Being in the Air Force, they were charged to obey orders from senior Airmen, and although they were commanded to it, their submission was very often reluctant. The reason is this: although earned authority is completely valid, it will never inspire the same eagerness in men and women that heroism and selflessness will.  In management, this is called post-heroism: the willingness of a manager to work alongside his employees to achieve the goal, rather than just delegating the work. The effect is this: if your boss is working alongside you on your task, as well as performing his own managerial duties, you will never have cause to resent him for the work that he assigns to you, because you will have no doubt that at the very least, he is as committed as you are to completing the task.

So, in case I lost you there: good leadership is this: the willingness of the manager to come off of his pedestal and get his hands in the dirt too. This is effective on so many levels: first and foremost, to assure his subjects that his duty is not to be a dictator, but rather a facilitator, and secondly to understand the problem at hand from the bottom-up. If you think about it, in business, in government, rarely do the leaders fully understand what goes on at the bottom; but the best ones almost always do. Southwest Airlines is the only US airline that has consistently been profitable since 9/11. They did this because they understood the needs of their customers, and they were able to know those needs because of their unique organizational structure: no matter how high-level an executive you are at Southwest, you are required to work twice a year in as a check-in agent. This practice not only communicates to the lower-level employees that they are a vital part of the organization, but it gives the executives keen insight into which processes help customer service, and which ones hinder it.

But method is hardly even a fraction of what good leadership is. You could be the best manager in the world, but what will it matter if all that you do with it is find a way to sell more widgets? No; the good leader recognizes the corruption in society and decides that he won’t stand for it. It seems that in recent years mankind is losing its responsibility to the pursuit of justice and righteousness, and has traded it for the comfort of ignorance and apathy. I am convinced that the mark of the great leader today is his frustration with the status quo, and his courage to disrupt it. I may be at odds with you in my convictions, but I believe that our responsibility as citizens and humans extends beyond ourselves and what we can gain from our circumstances. The reality is that our world may be more tormented by oppression, slavery, violence, disease and poverty today than ever before, and after 3 years at Penn State, I have learned that it simply isn’t right to overlook violence, poverty and injustice, and that none of us are free of responsibility toward our neighbors -near or far. But complacency is the norm in our world today, and it is my conviction that no matter how much wealth you amass, or which office you hold, if you disregard your responsibility toward your fellow man -here and far away -then you may just as well be poor and without stature, because wealth and power will never be eternal.

Of course, you may disagree completely with my view on the things that matter -love, joy, peace, righteousness, and the things that don’t -wealth, stature, influence. But that rests in your view of existence, and whether absolute truth and morality exist. I have learned in my time here at Penn State that influencing others for the sake of personal gain is never constructive, but sadly I do believe that many today would respond apathetically to such a notion. And I think that that may be the difference: apathy or action -and the pursuit of the things that are just and the things that are right.

Ultimately, in the world as I have come to know it, a good leader is one who accepts his responsibility toward his fellow man, and seeks to gain nothing for himself from his position. He does not use his power to oppress other, but rather he seeks to set the captive free. He doesn’t limit his responsibility to his constituents or to his shareholders, but to the pursuit of justice, and sacrifices himself entirely for it. He speaks not of his actions, but he lets his actions speak of his character. This is the leader that the world actually needs. And it is a sad moment to realize that I may never be this man. For who of us is wise enough or disciplined enough or compassionate enough to care more about our fellow man than we do about ourselves? I hope that one day I will.

Trackback

Rishi, you remind me a lot of my brother. He is a big Donald Trump fan, loves following new tech developments and is probably going to be going back to school for his MBA sometime in the next couple of years. I’m interested to see how your experiences in the next 2 years will shape which route you choose. The best advice I could have for you as you enter into the Smeal community is to be thoughtful of the ideologies which are presented to you in class and by your peers. I am convinced that true sucess comes from evaluating the world around you, and asking where it is going, and whether that direction is right or wrong, and what your role will be in shaping it.

Will; I hope you’re right about Philly.

I’d def been playing closer attention to the NCAA so far, and I’m pretty hopeful for our boys this season. With all the players who have moved on between Bama and OSU, provided our QB(s) and O-line get their acts together in the first half of the season I could see us holding our own in the Big 10 Championship. Hard to tell just from playing ISU, but next Saturday should be a pretty good preview for the rest of the season.

 

The thick of it.

I think that i an beginning to understand my limitations.

It’s 2am, and I’m reflecting on my week. I get bored when my peers complain to me of their burdens and numerous tasks that they face day after day, so I won’t bore you with the details of mine. But as a person who has built his college career around both doing things that he deeply enjoys, and doing others simply out of insecurity that he wasn’t working as hard as my peers, I would like to offer an observation and a question: is it worth it? I think that as a senior, I finally see that not all of it is.

I started to realize this over the summer, but the first few weeks of school, balancing a job, class and club duties, and probably most valuable to me, spending time with the people I care about, has made clear to me that I can not operate without the humility of rest. I don’t mean that I get angry and distracted, I mean that I can wake up in the morning, and accidentally fall back to sleep an hour later. it’s been hard to listen, but I think that I have come to the conclusion that it’s ok to not do everything, and that I can’t even if I try anyway.

So I ask this to any underclassmen who happen to stumble upon this post: why do you choose to participate in the activities which you do, and maybe even more importantly, what would you do with your time if you could have it back from all those trivial obligations?

My predictions for tomorrow’s game:

Penn State -31, Bama -24

…realistically:

Bama -45, Penn State -3