Thursday, December 16, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday, Leadership part Three

Haiman, Frankly, Group Leadership and Democratic Action Boston, Houghton Mifflin 1951.

Empiricial Evidence presented

Nine groups of five students were put in separate rooms and asked to come up with a recommendation on a specific issue. No leader was appinted. They observed the groups and noted when someone does something "that could be construed as leadership."

They then tried another set of nine groups on a similar problem. A leader was appointed. In the class, they asked the members to rate who was an effective discussion leader. But Dean Barnlund did not choose the best leader, he chose six who got poor ratings and three who were in the middle. After the second set of groups discussed the problems:

Then Dean Barnlund prepared a leraning exercise on "democratic leadership." Six of the leaders got the training. Three did not. The groups were reconstituted--they did not know who got the training. The ones who got the training did show dramatic improvent. (I will need to track down Barnlund's dissertation and subsequent work for a future Thoughtful Thursday.)

Dr. Benne at the National Training Laboratory in Group Development have used a series of facilities not only to train the leader to train the group to become "more alert to its own leadership needs."

Benne, Kenneth, "The Future of Work-Survey Conferences" Adult Education Bulletin XII (February 1948) page 93 to 96.

On the job training can convert leaders from an authoritarian style to one more democratic. A controlled study had two groups of Sumemr camp leaders. Six had a training exercise which included observation and discussion of other leaders in action. They were also observed on the job by the experimenters. Then their actions were assessed and arbitrary and authoritarian actions went down. The morale of both the Summer Camp leaders and the children improved. Observations showed authoritarian methods went from 70% to 10%. There was no change or an authoritarian change for the other leaders.

Bavelas and Lewin, "Training in Democratic Leadership" Journal of Abnormal and Social psychologyXXVII (January 1942) 115 to 119.

So training can make authoritarian leaders into those who adapat a democratic style. Precisely what one would want for sortition groups--if they have a leader at all.

Role playing including on-the-job training with role-playing worked to a person training scoutmasters. A "metamorphosis' was achieved

French, John R. Jr, "Retraining an Autocratic leader" Journal of Abnormal and Social PsychologyMXXXIX (April 1944) 224 to 237.

The Unpresident

So what is the role of leadership in particpatory democracy. I thought of the idea of an Un-president who says, "The buck stops with you." (the people). Who unlike "Bush" is not the "Decider" (I hear the second President Bush saying "I am the decideer" on the Political Junkee on NPR each week.)

The "UnPresident" might say, we have a crisis in Korea, should we send the fleet in a show of strength for the South Koreans. And then invite several academic and government experts to present the reasons to/from to do this as well as a fair evaluation of the pros and cons. Then, the "polls open tommorrow for three days, please vote what America should do."

I have heard "that military action" was not taken off the table in regards to Iran nuclear ambitions. Should not this decision be taken by the American People. I discussed earlier, how we could have handled the health care crisis.

Broader Discussion

As I mentioned in an earlier Thoughtful Thursday in the Leadership series, it is a contention whether democratic-type leadership, and hence participartory democracy, makes for happier people. In a controlled study, Dr. Lewin found that children in a group led democratically were happier. But others studies have found that groups that expect a "strong leader" on "horseback." are unhappy when presented with a democratic one. (I need to track these down.)

And he raises the issue, does the process of having and presenting an opinion, even if voted down, help an individual? And, if so, would a participatory democracy be more helpful than a conventional democracy. Or as Henry Thoreu asked, "how can a man be satisfied to entertain an opinion merely, and enjoy it?"

And Dr. Haiman raised the issue of rules, lines and policies very cogently:

A society may agree that disabled war veterans should receive aid, perhaps to prevent homelessness. But is a G.I. who lost his little finger opening a keg of beer at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, on V-J day count as a disabled veteran? A small lodge might agree to buying some paper at twenty-five dollars, but will they select the brand of paper, possibly at the stationary stand. And they may establish a poicy of no excessive drunkenness, but will a committee of the whole deal with each individual who might be considered excessively inebriated. And how do we make decisions quickly, particularly in emergency situations?

And where is the line between oppressing an individual and consensus--could individuals be slaves to the people in general. And he wisely quotes Bertrand Russell.

Those who believe that the voice of the people is the voice of God may infer that any unusual opinion or peculiar taste is almost a form of impiety, and is to be viewed as a culpable rebellion against the legitimate authority of the herd. This will only be avoided if liberty is as much valued as democracy, and it is realized that a society in which each is the slave of all is only a little better than one in which each is the slave of a despot. There is equality where all are slaves, as well as wehre all are free. This shows that equality, by itself, is not enough to make a good society.
One can certaintly imagine a participatory democracy, where each person's every move is directed by a sortition jury with no privacy or free will or the opportunity to let out a little steam at a party. But each person will also have the right to vote on other's freedoms, and will the problem resolve itself in that everyone will understand that they don't want a TV camera overhead all the time for themselves , and thus not do it to others. Will they understand that they want to be able to spend a little of their money foolishly from time to time, and thus let others do the the same? (I talked about financial privacy and referenced David Brin's Transparent Society in my Daily Kos section.) Or will some, e. g. those who might have committed an offense, or the rich in a paroxysm of anger about Wall Street bailouts and bonusses, be subjected to invasive control while the vast majority will be given reasonable freedom. It is really an empirical question, what is most likely to respect human rights: a participatory democracy, a Constitutional democracy which has the equivalent of the United States bill of right, a representative democracy, or a dictatorship, hopefully benevelent.

citing Lewisn, Kurt, "Experiments in Social Space" Resolving Social Conflict New York, Harpers 1948 and Bertrans Russell, Authority and the Individual

And, of course, we must deal with the "great man" theory of leadership. Others say it is the social interplay and an individual can rise to the occassion. As an example of the first is Thomas Carlyle who wrote in 1840:

This.. is an age that, as it were, denies the existenc eof great men... Show our critics a great man, a Luther for example, they begin to what they call "account" for him.. and bring him out to be a little kind of man. He was the 'creature of the time,' they say; the Time called him forth, the Time did everything, he nothing...This seems to me but melancholy work. The Time called forth? Alas, we have known times call loudly enough for their Great Man; but not find them when they call! he was not there; Providence had not sent him; theTime, calling its loudest, had to go down to confusion and wreck because he would not come when called.

Carlyle, hypothesizes a given time to be a collection of dry wood, but without the spark, it never would burn. But we know that a dry forest will eventually have its forest fire or wild fire, even from "spontaneous combusion." And similarly, an idea, a bill can bubble up, and get voted on, even without Speaker's of the House or Presidents.

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