Course description and learning objectives

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(Writing in the Disciplines seminar)

Fall 2013
Professor: Al Kaltman Class meets: Wednesdays, 11:10 am – 1:00 pm

Email: Location: 1957 E, Room B14

This course provides an introduction to the subject of leadership. We will examine current and past examples of leadership. We will study the factors required for a person to be a successful leader and the challenges that face today’s leaders. We will seek to determine if women leaders are different from their male counterparts, and what we can learn from the leadership of men who were responsible for the deaths of millions. We will look at the unique constraints and advantages of leading in the military, Congress and the presidency, and at the similarities and differences between leading in the private and public sectors. At the conclusion of this course you will be able to answer questions posed in this syllabus and discussed in class.
You will have to do a fair amount of reading to complete the written assignments for this course. I have attached a set of class notes and a suggested readings list to this syllabus to help you get started, but I expect you to cut your own trail through the forest of leadership studies. For that reason there is only one required text.
Kaltman, A. (1998). Cigars, whiskey and winning: Leadership lessons from General Ulysses S. Grant.

($13.55 at Amazon) The royalties that I receive from the sale of this book are donated to GW.

The one required text and the following three additional books that I recommend you purchase are available at the GW Bookstore.
Barsh, J., Cranston,S., & Lewis, G. (2009). How remarkable women lead: The breakthrough model for work and life. ($13.16 at Amazon)

Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. ($11.97 at Amazon)

Drucker, P. (2008). Management (rev. ed.). ($18.32 at Amazon)

When Polonius in the second act of Hamlet says, “Since brevity is the soul of wit…I shall be brief” he is not talking about being humorous. He is talking about keenness of judgment and insight, about imparting knowledge or wisdom in as few words as possible. Men and women in senior leadership positions rarely have the time to read much less write lengthy research papers. They require concise communications, memoranda and reports that are comprehensive in scope but clear and succinct. For this course that is what I expect of you.
In the following section I have listed the questions we will address in each class session. At the start of the first class, you are to hand in a single page on which you have listed the names of the three leaders you most admire and the three you least admire. For each leader include a single sentence explaining your choice. Feel free to make your selections from current or past leaders from anywhere in the world and in any field of endeavor. We will be discussing Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong in session 4; please do not include them in your list of the leaders you least admire.
For each of the ten class sessions September 4—25 and October 9—November 13, you will write a one page paper in which you answer one of the questions that I have posed for that week’s discussion. The question you are answering and a one paragraph abstract of no more than 25 words should be included on a separate cover page. Each one page paper should include a review of the research you conducted, your analysis and conclusions, countervailing arguments, if any, and why those arguments should be rejected. If available, original sources are to be used to support your answer. While the number of sources to be consulted will vary depending on the question you choose to answer, a minimum of three references in addition to any from the required or recommended texts must be cited in the body of your paper. Complete citations for your references are to be included on a separate page following the paper.
You will prepare two brief research papers. Each research paper is to be no more than 10 pages in length (excluding the cover and reference pages). A one paragraph abstract of no more than 100 words should be included on a separate cover page. For both research papers, original sources, if available, are to be used to support your recommendations. Sources must be cited in the body of the paper, and complete citations for your references are to be included on a separate page following the paper.
For the second research paper you also are to prepare a brief oral presentation of no more than 2 minutes in length. For the oral presentation, at the start of class, you are to hand in an outline of your presentation and a copy of any speaker notes you plan to use. To keep the oral presentations interesting and informative, no two students will be allowed to choose the same country. Country selections will be assigned on a first requested basis.

Scenario for research paper 1: You are an assistant to the US Secretary of State. He has asked you to prepare a paper comparing and contrasting the leadership of two governors who are being considered for an ambassadorship. Your paper is to discuss their strengths and weaknesses as leaders, include examples of their leadership successes and failures, and point out what he can learn from their leadership. Your paper should include your recommendation as to which of the two governors should receive the appointment, what objections might be raised to that appointment, and why the Secretary should disregard those objections and follow your recommendation. You are free to choose any two sitting governors. They may be from the same or different political parties.

Scenario for research paper 2: You are a US Department of State Foreign Service Officer assigned to the political section of the US Embassy in X. The newly appointed ambassador has asked you to prepare a paper that will assist her in her dealings with the top two political leaders in X. She wants your paper to discuss their strengths and weaknesses as leaders, include examples of their leadership successes and failures, and highlight what she can learn from their leadership. Your paper also should briefly touch on the most pressing bilateral issues facing the US and X, and based on your analysis of the two leaders, the approach the ambassador should take with them to address these issues, other approaches that might be taken, and why the ambassador should follow your recommendation in lieu of those approaches. You are free to choose any country as X, but your paper must deal with that country’s current leaders. For a nation such as China, you could describe the leadership of the president and prime minister, while for a nation like Spain you might describe the leadership of the prime minister and foreign minister, or the prime minister and the leader of the main opposition party.
The first research paper is due on November 20 and the second is due on December 4. No written assignment is due on October 2, and there will not be a class that day.
The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) has in recent years become the standard guide for publications in the social sciences. In-text citations and references for all of the papers in this course are to be in APA format. Attached to this syllabus is a set of reference and citation guidelines and examples. Additional information regarding APA formatting may be found at
All of the assignments must be completed and you must participate in class in order to receive a passing grade. Cell phones, computers and other electronic devices detract from class discussion; they may not be used in class. Class discussions will cover the papers that have been written for that session and the additional questions for discussion included in the class notes. Your papers (double spaced in Times New Roman 12 point type) are to be handed in at the start of class. Absences from class will be excused and late papers will be accepted only if there are valid extenuating circumstances.
You have the option of revising and resubmitting any or all of the one page papers that you have written. Only the grades of the revised papers will be used in calculating your final grade. Revised papers are to be handed in at the start of the class following the one in which the graded paper was returned. I will email you the grade for your second research paper and oral presentation, and your final grade for the course.
Your final grade will be calculated as follows:
One page papers are each worth 7 points: 10 x (3 for writing mechanics + 4 for content) = 70.0

Two research papers are each worth 12 points: 2 x (5 for writing mechanics + 7 for content) 24.0

The oral presentation is worth 5 points (2 for delivery and 3 for content) 5.0 The three leaders that you most and least admire paper is worth 1 point for following directions 1.0

Total: 100.0

The following schedule outlines the topics we will address in each class session. I reserve the right to make changes to this syllabus as the semester unfolds.
1: Introduction (August 28)
Who are the three leaders that you most admire? Who are the three that you least admire?
2: Leadership (September 4)
What is leadership, and how do leaders inspire, encourage and empower their followers? What does it take to be a successful leader? Has there been an American political leader in the last 50 years who was a transformational leader?
3: Leadership challenges (September 11)
What are the primary challenges that all leaders face? How do the challenges that political leaders face differ from those that leaders in the private sector have to deal with? How do political leaders in subordinate roles, such as a Zhou En-Lai, Anthony Eden, Molotov and Colin Powell, successfully exercise leadership? What does a political appointee have to do to successfully lead a bureaucratic organization?
4: Leadership values (September 18)
Is Mao Zedong a legitimate leadership role model? Have aspiring leaders anything to learn from Stalin? Can today’s leaders learn from Hitler? What can we learn from leaders, like Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, who fell afoul of their personal demons? In some parts of the world, we have come to expect that corruption and hypocrisy go hand-in-hand with political power, is that also the case in the United States? Is leadership value neutral?
5: Leadership values—continued (September 25)
How do political leaders achieve consensus without sacrificing their basic values? Is it possible for today’s political leaders to act with integrity and firmness of purpose? Are political leaders beholden to those who helped to elect them?
6: Leadership lessons from the American Civil War (October 9)
Why study Lee, or for that matter, Grant, Lincoln or Davis, and what relevance, if any, does the leadership of these men have for today’s leaders? What is the most important political leadership lesson to be drawn from the American Civil War?
7: Men on horseback (October 16)
Do career soldiers perform well in the presidency? Is a military background an excellent or a poor preparation for political leadership in a democratic nation, and is the answer different for an authoritarian or totalitarian state? Why is it that even though the US has had no shortage of naval heroes, men like Decatur, Farragut, Porter, Dewey and Nimitz, no senior naval officer has ever received serious consideration as a possible presidential candidate?

8: The woman leader (October 23)
Do women have better collaborative and networking skills than men, and if they do, are these the skills women leaders bring to the table? Do women still have greater leadership obstacles to overcome than men, and if so, what are they? What does a woman political leader need to become a viable presidential candidate?
9: Congressional leadership (October 30)
Leadership in the House of Representatives
Can the agent theory of leadership explain the current voting cohesiveness of both political parties, and can the leadership of speakers like Sam Rayburn, Tip O’Neil, Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi be explained in terms of agency? How do members who have not been elected or appointed to a formal leadership position, men like George Norris who led the revolt that successfully curbed Joe Cannon’s powers, take on the mantle of leadership? What does the Speaker need to be a successful leader?
10: Congressional leadership—continued (November 6)
Leadership in the Senate
Does the institutional nature (rules and procedures) of the Senate preclude the possibility of effective leadership? The golden age of Chinese philosophy is known as the “hundred schools of thought contend” period. Does this label apply to the Senate of today, and if it does, why is this not the Senate’s golden age? How does what the majority leader of the Senate needs to be successful differ from what is required for the Speaker of the House of Representatives?
11: Presidential leadership (November 13)
Are presidential power and presidential leadership synonymous? How important is a president’s leadership style? Is it easier for a prime minister to lead than it is for a president, and would a multi-party system make it easier or harder for a president to lead than a two party system? To what degree does the modern media, especially the cable news networks with their 24/7 coverage, near constant barrage of praise or criticism, and almost daily reporting of the results of the latest presidential approval rating opinion poll, enhance or degrade a president’s ability to lead?
12: Herding cats (November 20)
We will discuss team leadership.
13: Presentations of research paper 2 and final thoughts (December 4)
Class Notes
1: Introduction
Beginning with the publication of Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun by Wess Roberts in 1985, there has been a seemingly endless stream of books on the subject of leadership. There are over 25,000 books with the word leadership in the title listed on Amazon, and these are really just the tip of the iceberg since many of the books that deal with the subject do not have the words leader or leadership in their title. With a few notable exceptions, these books offer the illusion that anyone who follows the author’s prescription can become a successful leader. People in or aspiring to leadership positions are told by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie to be strength based leaders, by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal to be big picture leaders, by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee to be emotionally intelligent primal leaders, and by James Hunter to be a servant leader. They can follow Atul Gawande’s checklist or John Kotter’s eight-step framework, learn to apply John Maxwell’s 21 irrefutable laws of leadership or Stephen Covey’s seven (later revised to eight) habits of highly effective people. They can be like Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson’s one minute manager, or take James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s advice and liberate the leader within them. Scanning the titles of leadership books on the shelf of a Barnes and Noble or Borders is like standing in the checkout line at a supermarket and seeing the tabloids that claim to contain the secret to losing weight without dieting or getting six-pack abs without working out.
With few exceptions, leadership advice books are aimed at people working in the private sector. Americans are, in David Potter’s words, a people of plenty. The US is a nation whose national character has been shaped by the perception that there is limitless economic abundance. According to Potter, the difference between Americans and other nationalities isn’t that the answer to “Who wants to be a millionaire?” is “Everyone!” it’s that in the US everyone believes that they can become millionaires. Traditionally, highly successful American business leaders have been admired and envied. Truman was referring to businessmen when he said that you could walk down the main street of any mid-sized American city and pass a half-dozen men who given the chance would rise to the opportunity and make a pretty good president of these United States. While it is not uncommon for a successful business leader to be elected president in other countries, Americans have elected to the presidency men who have served in Congress or as a governor, and generals. Only two men, Taft and Hoover, have been elected president without having ever been elected to another office or held the rank of general, and both of them had served in the cabinet prior to being elected. Hoover is the only notable businessman to ever occupy the White House, and his presidency is remembered for the Great Depression. One of the questions we will seek to answer in this course is whether books that offer leadership advice to current and aspiring business leaders are of value to men and women in the political arena.
Truman said the only new thing new in this world is the history we haven’t learned. Grant wrote that he would like to see truthful history written. Leadership case studies all too often fall into the trap of glorifying the person whose leadership is being presented as a role model. The business, military, political or religious leader is portrayed as a peerless paragon who never takes a misstep—a leadership role model that we would do well to emulate. While such case studies may be interesting reading, the simple truth is that there are no perfect leaders. Keeping that in mind, throughout this course, we will examine historical examples of successful and failed leadership in the hope that by looking backward we will learn leadership lessons that will serve us in good stead going forward. Bismarck believed that only a fool learns from his own mistakes, while a wise man learns from the mistakes of others. We will try to follow his advice.

2: Leadership
Peter Northouse defines leadership in terms of the process by which a leader affects and is affected by his or her followers. According to Northhouse, leadership is an interactive event whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. If Northouse is correct that the key to leadership success is the management of a process, then leadership can be learned. However, if a person’s ability to successfully lead others is a function of in-born talents, then the hand we are dealt at birth largely determines our leadership potential.
Peter Drucker, the founder of the modern study of management, writes that the job of the executive is to be effective, that is, to get the right things done. Rush Limbaugh would agree since he has said that leaders get to solutions. Oprah Winfrey, on the other hand, believes that leadership is about empathy, about having the ability to relate and connect with people. Both Rush and Oprah share the view that leaders inspire, encourage and empower people. Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee assert that leaders do this by priming good feelings in those they lead.
Bill George argues that there are five steps to developing a leadership plan that will enable you to develop into a successful leader: achieve self awareness, focus on the principles and values that matter to you, determine what motivates you, build a support team, and recognize that there is more to life than work. Patrick Lencioni looks at the flip side and concludes that leaders who are unsuccessful fear conflict, lack commitment, avoid accountability, pay inadequate attention to results and do not trust their people.
James Macgregor Burns describes leadership as either transactional or transformational. Transactional leadership can be viewed as a social exchange, where, for example, the business leader pays for performance, the military leader awards medals for bravery, and the political leader delivers on commitments made in exchange for campaign contributions. Transformational leaders like Mohammed, Genghis Khan, the Meiji Emperor, Susan B. Anthony, Henri Dunant, Samuel Gompers, Lord Baden-Powell, Ibn Saud, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are the ones who effect great and long-lasting changes.
Bernard Bass and Ronald Riggio outline a series of steps a leader can take to become more transformational. These include creating a personal development plan, having a vision plan and articulating your vision, and seeking out and being receptive to feedback. Transformational leadership is about getting ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results. Napoleon said, “A man does not have himself killed for a half-pence a day or for some petty distinction. You must speak to the soul in order to electrify him.”
Additional questions for class discussion: Was Usama bin Laden a transformational leader? Does a person automatically become a leader when he or she is promoted into a supervisory role? Can a person lead without being in a more powerful position than others? Are intelligence, imagination and knowledge the only factors that limit a person’s leadership potential? Are some people natural born leaders? Must a person be endowed with a special set of personality traits or characteristics in order to successfully lead others? Are physical characteristics important? Are certain skills or knowledge needed? How important is experience? Is there a winning leadership style?
3: Leadership challenges
Eisenhower cautioned that before a battle is joined planning is everything, but that after the battle begins plans are worthless. Dealing with plans that go awry is only one of the many challenges that all leaders have. Alfred Sloan, who built General Motors into the world’s largest industrial corporation, said that the first thing he learned about management is that the work must be done by others. Deciding what and to whom to delegate can make the difference between leadership success and failure.
Political appointees are often tasked with leading bureaucratic organizations responsible for areas in which they have no expertise. The structure, decision making processes, and even the language used within these organizations can be confounding. For example, the following is a draft Department of Defense instruction: “E2.8. Sensemaking encompasses the range of cognitive activities undertaken by individuals, teams, organizations, and societies to develop awareness and understanding and to relate this understanding to a feasible action space (Reference (n)). Sensemaking is also defined as ‘the process of creating situational awareness in situations of uncertainty.’”
Additional questions for class discussion: Is it more challenging to lead a large organization or a small one? Is it harder to be a leader at some levels in an organization than at others? How do leaders overcome the challenges posed by differences in age, ethnicity, gender, race and religion? What are some of the practical problems that leaders are presented with on a day-to-day basis, everything from absenteeism to sexual harassment, and how should they be dealt with? Is the advent of the Internet a boon or a bane for today’s political leaders?
4: Leadership values
Some people were outraged by White House Communications Director Anita Dunn’s remark to a high school graduating class that Mao Zedong was one of her favorite political philosophers. Dunn was citing Mao’s victory over the nationalists in China’s civil war as an example of how a leader can choose his or her own path. Dunn told the students, “You don’t have to accept the definition of how to do things, and you don’t have to follow other peoples’ choices.”
In an address to the 17th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1934), Stalin pointed out failures in leadership that urgently needed to be addressed: “Bureaucracy and red tape in the administrative apparatus; idle chatter about ‘leadership in general’ instead of real and concrete leadership; the functional structure of our organizations and lack of individual responsibility; lack of personal responsibility in work, and wage equalization; the absence of a systematic check upon the fulfillment of decisions; fear of self-criticism—these are the sources of our difficulties; this is where our difficulties are now lodged.”
Machievelli wrote that a prince “cannot observe all of those virtues for which men are reputed good because it is often necessary to act against mercy, against faith, against humanity, against frankness, against religion, in order to preserve the state.” Hitler believed that it was fortunate for leaders that people were stupid, and that success was the sole judge of right and wrong.
We are all familiar with Lord Acton’s warning that all power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Two psychologists, Joris Lammers and Adam Galinsky, conducted a series of experiments with university students from which they concluded that there was a direct, causal link between the experience of power and moral hypocrisy— powerful people are more likely than those in less powerful positions to exhibit a greater discrepancy between what they practice and what they preach. David Runciman believes that double standards are the hallmark of powerful political figures.
Additional questions for class discussion: Are double standards the hallmark of powerful political figures, or is that the exception rather than the rule? Do political figures who break the rules do so because they think they are so smart that they can get away with it without getting caught, or because they believe that the rules are different for them?
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