One of the most renowned thinkers and insightful writers on leadership of our time, Harlan Cleveland has seen numerous trends come and go and weathered many drastic changes in leadership and management-from the rise of the "company man" to the advent of the leaderless, self-managed organization. In this collection of essays-the newest addition to the Warren Bennis Signature Serieshe draws on his vast experience to apply his thoughts to leadership. In each essay, Cleveland focuses on an intriguing insight about leadership-illustrated by stories from his own experience offering thoughtful perspective on what 21st century leaders will face in the new knowledge environment.
About the Author
Harlan Cleveland has founded and led a variety of institutions and held many leadership positions over a long and illustrious career. After World War II, he managed postwar relief and rehabilitation for the U.N., first in Italy then in China, and was thereafter a top official in the Marshall Plan. He was executive editor, then publisher, of The Reporter magazine in New York, and dean of Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship. President John F. Kennedy appointed him Assistant Secretary of State for U.N. and other international organizations; President Lyndon B. Johnson sent him to Europe as U.S. Ambassador to NATO. He was then, successively, president of the University of Hawaii, director of International Affairs at the Aspen Institute, and founding dean of the University of Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. He is currently a board member of the American Refugee Committee, the Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation, and the World Future Society, and president emeritus of the World Academy of Art and Science.
Read an Excerpt
Nobody in ChargeEssays on the Future of Leadership
By Harlan Cleveland
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7879-6153-1
Chapter OneThe Get-It-All-Together Profession
Paradox of Participation
There was a time, celebrated in song and story, when leadership was entrusted to people called leaders. Their numbers were tiny, their information scarce, their expertise primitive, the range of their options narrow, the reach of their power marginal, the scale of their actions limited. But they were at least presumed to be "in charge."
In those days it was possible to believe that policy was actually made by people others called policymakers. The policymaking few made broad decisions, it was said (and even taught in schools). A much larger group of unsung experts, civil servants, and employees converted these principles into practices. The obligation of most people was to comply with the regulations, pay the taxes and prices established by the few, and acquiesce in the seizure of power by divine right, coup d'état, corporate takeover, or elections sometimes bought or stolen.
In Aristotle's Athens, Confucius's China, Cicero's Rome, Charlemagne's Europe, and Jefferson's Virginia, the educated and affluent few did the social planning and made the destiny decisions that made the difference between war and peace, poverty and prosperity, individual freedom and collective coercion, minority rights and majority rule. The mostly uneducated"lower orders" of slaves, servants, peasants, workers, and merchants-and most women-were not expected and did not expect to join in the elegant conversations about policy. In those vertical, pyramidal societies, dogma, doctrine, and dictation were the natural style of leadership.
Somewhere along the way in the colorful story of people getting things done, the collection of processes we now call modernization made the vertical society obsolete. Man-as-manager had to learn how to manage the complexity that man-as-scientist-and-engineer and man-as-educator were making both possible and necessary. In a world of intercontinental conflict, gigantic cities, congested living, and large and fragile systems of all kinds, the traditional modes of leadership, featuring "recommendations up, orders down," simply did not work very well. Nobody could be fully in charge of anything, and the horizontal society was born.
The key to the management of complexity was the division of labor. The benefits of modernization were available only to societies that educated most of their people to function as specialists in a division-of-labor economy. Thus there came to pass, late in the second millennium A.D., slaveless societies that responded to a technological imperative by giving citizenship to all their people and legislating education as an entitlement for all their citizens. Thomas Jefferson foresaw this macrotrend as early as 1813. "An insurrection has ... begun," he wrote to John Adams, "of science, talents, and courage, against rank and birth, which have fallen into contempt." He was spending his postpresidential years building the University of Virginia and promoting education and scholarship from his Monticello home.
When every man, and now every woman too, is entitled to earn through education an admission ticket to active citizenship, when leadership is not the province of a few hundred noblemen, a few thousand big landholders and shareholders, but is shared among an aristocracy of achievement numbering in the millions, decision making is done not by a club but by a crowd. So the core issue of executive leadership is a paradox of participation: How do you get everybody in on the act and still get some action?
Leading by Doing
If the get-it-all-together people used to be born to rank and wealth, now they are mostly made-and self-made-by competition and competence. This is true not only in the United States. Today, in all but a rapidly dwindling number of still-traditional societies, men and women become leaders by what they do.
Even among authoritarian regimes, the nations still governed by extended families (Saudi Arabia, and some of the Emirates in the Persian Gulf) are greatly outnumbered by those ruled by self-appointed tyrants who got where they are by elbowing their way to power (often by coup d'état), and usually to personal prosperity as well. The closest thing to a ruling class is to be found these days in totalitarian regimes; in each of them, a small group of people who have fought their way up the bureaucratic ladder maneuver for power and preferment and, when they get to the top, achieve only a precarious lifetime tenure-sometimes shortened by sudden death.
In the United States and the other industrial democracies in the Atlantic Community and the Pacific Basin, the aristocracy of achievement is now growing in size and pervasive in function. These people are usually leaders because they want to be-often assisted, selected, promoted, or adopted as protégés by earlier achievers. (None of us, of course, can lead in everything we touch; all of us are followers in most of our life and work.)
People may be leaders in public or private employ, but that distinction is increasingly indistinct in our mixed economy. They may be leaders in politics or business or agriculture or labor or law or education or scientific research or journalism or religion or community issues; some swing from branch to branch in the forest of occupations; some specialize in advocacy or lobbying on policy issues ranging from abortion rights to the municipal zoo. They may be in the establishment or in the antiestablishment. Their writ, conferred or chosen, may run to community affairs, to national decisions or global issues, to a whole multinational industry or to a narrower but deeper slice of life and work: a single firm, a local agency, a neighborhood.
I have tried several times to count the number of leaders in the United States of America. In the mid-1950s, because I was publisher of a magazine I wanted them to buy, I counted 555,000 "opinion leaders." A 1971 extrapolation of that figure came out at about a million. Seven out of ten of these were executive leaders of many kinds of organizations; this "aristocracy of achievement" was estimated in 1985 at one out of every two hundred Americans. After that I gave up: the knowledge revolution keeps multiplying the numbers of Americans who take the opportunity to lead, at one time or another, on one issue or another, in one community or another.
The galloping rate of growth of complexity means that a growth curve of the requirement for leaders (if anyone were clever enough to construct such an index) would show a steeper climb than any other growth rate in our political economy.
Attitudes of Leadership
Every person who seeks or assumes a leadership role in an information-rich society has to develop some of the aptitudes and attitudes of the generalist. Generalists have to be skeptical of inherited assumptions-because so many of them are being undermined so fast by the informatization of society.
They have to be curious about science-based technology-because those who would control it must first understand, not how it works, but what it can do for us and to us. (That's the way most of us understand an automobile: we can't fix it, but we're good at driving it.) They have to be broad in their perspective-to take account of the disappearing distinctions between public and private and between domestic and foreign. They have to be eager to pull people and ideas together-rather than split them apart. They have to be really interested in issues of fairness-because the people to be pulled together are. And they have to be self-confident enough to work, not out of sight in a back room, but riskily out on a limb in an increasingly open society.
You will find in these essays more emphasis on attitudes than on skills. Attitudes are the hardest part of the generalist's required learning. Survival and growth in the get-it-all-together profession, perhaps the world's most difficult line of work, requires a mindset that is, by and large, neglected in our education.
I first tried to define this mindset many years ago before a convention of city managers, because I thought they do some of the world's toughest and least rewarded work. After that I kept trying out on executive audiences and student seminars a series of draft formulations until I thought I had it about right.
Just then a book called The One Minute Manager hit the bestseller lists. So I tried to compress in a similar compass, for an op-ed article titled "The One Minute Leader," the generalist mindset I had been drafting and redrafting. My tongue was only half in cheek. There had to be a market niche for a learning tool that leaders, who are usually in a hurry, could absorb on the run.
Those of us who presume to take the lead in a democracy, where nobody is even supposed to be in charge, seem to need an arsenal of eight attitudes (reading time: one minute) indispensable to the management of complexity:
First, a lively intellectual curiosity, an interest in everything -because everything really is related to everything else, and therefore to what you're trying to do, whatever it is.
Second, a genuine interest in what other people think, and why they think that way-which means you have to be at peace with yourself for a start.
Third, a feeling of special responsibility for envisioning a future that's different from a straight-line projection of the present. Trends are not destiny.
Fourth, a hunch that most risks are there not to be avoided but to be taken.
Fifth, a mindset that crises are normal, tensions can be promising, and complexity is fun.
Sixth, a realization that paranoia and self-pity are reserved for people who don't want to be leaders.
Seventh, a sense of personal responsibility for the general outcome of your efforts.
Eighth, a quality I call "unwarranted optimism"-the conviction that there must be some more upbeat outcome than would result from adding up all the available expert advice.
No Generalist Ladder
Generalists may start as scientists or MBAs or lawyers or union organizers or civil servants or artists, or mobilizers of feminist or ethnic groups, or citizen-advocates of a particular cause. They may be managers who (as a committee of the International City Management Association put it) know how to "lead while being led." They may even be judges who know that the law has to be molded to reflect both technological change and public opinion. There is actually no generalist ladder to leadership. Every young person starts as a specialist in something; but a rapidly growing minority of them, by accident or motivation or both, graduate into generalist leadership.
They are, with exceptions to be sure, men and women who are not preoccupied with formal power or position, or with getting their faces on TV or their names in the newspapers, people whose concern exceeds their confusion and may even preempt their egos, because they get busy and inventive doing something that hasn't been done before-and have fun doing it. But what makes them the shock troops of the get-it-all-together profession is, above all, their overriding concern for the general outcome of their efforts.
Some practicing generalists are legislators and editorial writers and other situation-as-a-whole people whose administrative responsibilities are comparatively light. But most of them are not only leaders but executives in business, government, or the independent sector-that is, people who feel the need not only to point the way to the future, but also to try to get there.
We who practice as executive leaders come in all sizes and shapes, pursue a wide variety of goals and purposes, and operate in many modes-in federal, state, and local bureaus, in big corporations, in small businesses, in academic settings, in nonprofit agencies ranging from the EXXON Education Foundation to Alcoholics Anonymous. But we are all responsible, for our own behavior and decisions, to people-in-general.
The buck doesn't stop with any of those intermediate bodies from which we derive our mandates: legislatures, stockholders, boards of directors or trustees. What Harry Truman said of the U.S. presidency is true for each of us who presumes to bring people together to make something different happen: "The buck stops here."
The Road to Leadership
If you now regard yourself as a leader or have aspirations in that direction, I can with some confidence trace your double career.
First you pick a specialty: legal services or health care, engineering or economics, accounting or architecture, production management or consumer advocacy, weaving or welding, brainwork or manual skill or some combination of the two. As you rise in your chosen field (we used to say "rise like cream in a milk bottle," but homogenized milk in an opaque carton has spiked that metaphor), you find yourself drawn into broader supervisory, managerial assignments, and then into the generalist role, either in your own right or (more likely at first) as staff assistant to a leader whose preoccupation with the whole you are expected to share.
You may be (to adapt some of John Gardner's words) a clarifier, definer, critic, or teacher. Or you may be an implementer, manager, problem solver who will "redesign existing institutions or invent new ones, create coalitions and fight off the people who don't want the problem solved." Or again, you may be counted among the "mobilizers" who "catalyze the social morale, help people know what they can be at their best, and nurture a workable level of unity." You may even come to be effective in all three roles; a good many people are.
This broader role requires a capacity for integrative thinking you didn't learn in school, "people skills" that were not graded and scored earlier in life, attitudes that differ in fundamental ways from those that made you a rising young specialist. Graduating from successful specialist to generalist leader is a wrenching, demanding, sometimes traumatic change of life.
As you shift gears, you will already have had a good deal of practice getting around in, and getting around, large-scale bureaucracies: foiling the personnel classification system, outwitting the budgeteers, hoodwinking the organization analysts, suffering the auditors, and even getting some better furniture for your office. You will also have learned, if you are considered a promising "comer," that despite those pyramidal organization charts the real world of work consists mostly of horizontal relationships. Most of the people you see from day to day don't work for you, and you don't work for them. You work together, even if that isn't the way it looks on the chart.
Excerpted from Nobody in Charge by Harlan Cleveland Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
Foreword: The Man on the Flying Trapeze (Warren Bennis). Preface. How I Got Here. Part One: The Macrotransition We Are In. 1. The Get-It-All-Together Profession. 2. Coming Soon: The Nobody-in-Charge Society. 3. The Spread of Knowledge. 4. The Age of People-Power. 5. Dinosaurs and Personal Freedom. 6. "Safe for Diversity". 7. The Social Fallout of Science. 8. Intuition and Chaos in the Real World. Part Two: On Being a Leader. 9. The Leader as Futurist. 10. The Dean's Dilemma: Leadership of Equals. 11. A Style for Complexity. 12. "The Very Definition of Integrity". 13. The Situation-as-a-Whole Person. 14. Education for Citizen Leadership. Afterword: Aphorisms from Experience. Afterword: The Whole Chessboard. Index.
What People are Saying About This
"The latest book from one of the wisest men of our time!" John W. Gardner, founder of Common Cause and of The Independent Sector
"Most books on leadership are written by people who themselves haven't led anything. This book is written by one of the most effective executives who, from a very early age, has for a half-century provided outstanding leadership in American government, higher education, and business." Peter F. Drucker, business philospher
"A rare, readable blend of exceptional experience, wisdom, and witfor those perplexed about the present or concerned about the future, especially those with responsibility for others." Dee Hock, founder, Visa International
"We have entered a new and different world-richly interconnected and radically multicentric-in which the traditional holders of power have to move over and make room for new stakeholders, new players, and new leaders of many kinds. Nobody in Charge, drawing on the learnings of a wise and widely experienced public executive, offers some priceless insights into how things have changed, where they are now, and where we may be going next in this bewildering terrain." Walter Truett Anderson, president, the World Academy of Art and Science