1. In his interview, Gen Petraeus discusses four tasks of a strategic leader. What are these tasks? How would you apply these tasks to an organization (government or nonprofit or private) you are currently working for or worked for in the past?
Petraeus shared four critical tasks of strategic leadership (Harvard Belfer Center, 2016). First, leaders need to ask for their targeted audience’s needs and then develop a pathway and strategies to succeed. Second, leaders must communicate their goals in a variety of ways within the organization. Third, with the goals set in place and promulgated, they must carefully monitor the implementation process. Last but not least, they need to evaluate whether a strategy needs to be revised or replaced. The four steps then repeat until the organization achieves mutual satisfaction among itself or its targeted audience (Harvard Belfer Center, 2016).
While I have never been in a leadership position authoritative enough to implement strategies, I have seen strategic leadership in action at Augusta University, just like Petraeus has discussed. Amid a deadly pandemic, the AU Office of the Provost worked around the clock with the Deans and Department Chairs of each college to listen and understand their needs, all while obeying general guidelines from the University System of Georgia. Then, the leaders developed many strategic plans with the Office of Facilities Operations, including but not limited to, establishing the new capacity of every classroom on campus and installing hand sanitizer stations. Third, the Provost team worked with the Division of Marketing and Communications and the Division of Enrollment and Student Affairs to broadcast the campus reopening plan. There were numerous email blasts, social media posts, website updates, phone calls, and even local news channels to inform everyone in the institution about the new guidelines and plans. Last, the leadership team continued to meet and evaluate their performance by live streaming town hall meetings to keep everyone updated. There were also many quality surveys sent out to students and employees for their feedback on campus safety and social climate. I was in awe to see the assiduous work that our leaders have performed, and it truly inspired me to see what explementary leadership can do to bring peace and success to an organization.
2. What are some limitations of expert power?
According to Yukl and Gardiner (2020), when an individual in an organization has much more relevant expertise in the specific task or career in demand, the effects of expert power will be automatic to the organization. For example, in the US, a team of infectious disease experts recommends a form of COVID-19 prevention, and politicians adapt by creating policies that would favor those recommendations.
However, the limitation of expert power is that the organization is under the condition that others are dependent on the expert for advice but do not have such an obvious advantage in expertise on their own (Yukl & Gardiner, 2020). While the person with expert power must provide information, they must also help others outside of the expertise to comprehend. It is helpful to provide elementary reasoning and conductive explanation. Most importantly, it will have to be in line with the overall organization’s interest. Bernard (1938) said that a person accepts a communication as authoritative under the first and most important that he or she understands the communication. Second, when receiving the communication, he or she believes it to be compatible with his or her interest or the organization as a whole. In the US, for example, wearing a mask is recommended by the experts as it is proven to slow the spread of COVID-19, but governors from each state have different opinions and have made different policies.
Another limitation is that the person with expertise is perceived as the leader to be a reliable source of information and advice (Yukl & Gardiner, 2020). Even if expertise is evident with a diploma or license, perception is equally as important as the real expertise. The individual with expert power who has the credentials to prove this skill must also take time to build more comfortable trust from others. The expert knowledge is put to the test over time, and the others validate the expert power. Thus, it is important to know that time is a limitation, as leaders need to develop and maintain a reputation for strong expertise and credibility. In the US today, we can see that experts from the Center for Disease Control have the credentials for their work; however, the relationship between them and our politicians is fractured after time. It is evident that through this fractured relationship, the politicians have discredited the expert’s recommendations.
3. How does organizational culture influence perceptions of ethical behavior?
According to Bernard (1938), organizational culture is impersonal and not directly stated by the organization chart as this type of organization derives from the relationship among its members. Menzel (2017) stated that cooperation in the relationship is conscious, deliberate, purposeful. Culture has much to offer in leading and building an organization of integrity. It can be a subset of ethical culture as both share values that constitute the overall organization of the company (Menzel, 2017). Leaders understand and apply cultural norms in forming relationships and rapport with others in the company. They tend to contribute to the effectiveness and sustainability of the organization’s integrity. A culture perspective is the most promising organizational perspective to consider when devising a successful ethics management strategy.
Out of all the companies that I worked for since obtaining my undergraduate degree, AU has the most eminence of cultural influence over ethical behaviors. AU has accepted many students and hired employees worldwide who brought their cultural values to campus. Their culture gave them strong but different political reactions regarding protests have spurred nationwide due to several deaths related to police brutality, which gained steam over social media. Reflecting on a diverse campus and institutional values, AU has chosen to welcome the voices from different ethnic student and employee populations instead of oppressing them. For example, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) partnered with the Multicultural Student Engagement (MSE) to host reoccurring virtual listening sessions. They invited the Provost and senior leadership to listen and directly interact with students, faculty, and staff regarding disparity and inequities on campus.
4. How can we build ethical organizations?
To build an ethical organization, we must continuously pursuit ethical competence. I believe that everyone in an organization shares an equal part in building ethics. Still, the leaders are responsible for advocating, coaching, correcting ethical behaviors, and documenting any incidences. If the leadership, especially in the public sector, does not provide adequate coaching or corrections, external outlets will do it for them. When it gets to that point, it will already be an embarrassment for the organization. Menzel (2017) mentioned the term ethics watchdogs, the news media whose mission is to keep track of unethical or suspicious behaviors.
To put the ethical competencies in action, Menzel (2017) identifies five steps in a repeated cycle. The organization’s leader must have (1) the ability to commit to ethical standards, (2) knowledge of the code of ethics, (3) engage in principle moral reasoning, (4) act on public values, and (5) promote ethical practices in the organization. These repeated steps form dynamic energy for competence. Unfortunately, most of the companies I worked with established the impression that ethics management is solely the responsibility of the Human Resources Department of an organization through the employee handbook. After I finish an onboarding process with a company, the ethics organization was never brought up again. The only apparent way a company maintains ethics organization was to reprimand or terminate an employee over reported incidents. Nevertheless, the leadership from my current employer, AU, has given me a clear view of Menzel’s steps of ethical competence in action and what ethical organization is in real life.
First, AU promulgates a clear commitment to ethical standards as it is listed as a part of its mission. Second, AU hired several authoritative leaderships in ODI and MSE. These new hires brought their expertise that the institution can utilize to achieve a greater goal. Third, the institutional leadership team offers to listen to concerns from students, faculty, staff, especially the minority group. They are also conducting a study to determine the best course of action to address the concerns. For example, MSE issued a Diversity Climate Survey to all students, part of a bigger goal to complete social research. Fourth, collaborative efforts can also be seen in ODI that is responsible for providing grants on research for subjects such as health and education disparities. They also provide proper training on sensitivity, along with many other ethical subjects. Fifth, AU continues to publicize itself firmly as an institution committed to equity and diversity. The Provost team regularly speaks about the institution’s mission for diversity and inclusion at every commencement, new student orientation, and town hall meeting. I must admit that there is no other company that I worked for really focus on building an ethical organization in a way even remotely similar to AU.
Bernard, C. (1938). The Functions of the Executive. Harvard University Press.
Harvard Belfer Center. (2016, April 8). David Petraeus: Four Tasks of a Strategic Leader [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/Ej4SmxDfEgQ
Menzel, D. (2017). Ethics Management for Public and Nonprofit Managers, Leading and Building Organizations of Integrity (3rd ed.). Routledge, an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group.
Yukl, G & Gardner, W. (2020). Leadership in Organizations (9th ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.