Executive Development: The Personal Aspect of Organizational Change
by Bob J. Holder

During this decade, American corporations will face a variety of developments. They will continue to experience the issues associated with globalization and new technological development. In domestic markets, they will encounter the expanding number of people riding the crest of the "Age Wave" and a variety of lifestyles. They will have to cope with baby boomers facing the issues of mid life changes with their interests turning towards family and quality of life. They will have to devote more attention to social and environmental issues and cope with a labor shortage. These trends will provide opportunities and require ongoing innovation in products and services. They will also require changes in organizational systems. Leaders of excellent firms are exploring the implications of these trends. They are developing innovations. They are transforming their firms to a new organizational form.

The Personal Quest of Transformation

Executives desiring to transform their firms must begin recognizing the need for their personal transformation. To paraphrase mythologist Joseph Campbell, executives must accept the "call to adventure," letting go of conventions and what was believed to be common sense in the past. For example, many tended to focus their energies on their competitors while ignoring customers. This resulted in the development of strategies for matching the competition in a head-to-head conflict. The result has tended towards a massive expenditure of resources on advertising and minor innovations. A more effective strategy involves exploring the needs of customers and how they can be better served (Ohmae, K. (November-December, 1988). "Getting Back to Strategy." Harvard Business Review. Vol. 88, No. 6. pp. 149-156.).

Personal examination starts with an in depth exploration of personal beliefs, unconscious assumptions, values regarding the nature of management, the organization, purposes of work and the effectiveness of technology. It also involves an examination of alternative visions of the future.

Discovery of Being and Self-expression

The task of the individual is to discover whether he or she is seeking to express him or herself. In On Becoming A Leader, Bennis states that effective leaders seek to express themselves. Like Charles Garfield's peak performer (Garfield, C. (1986). Peak Performers: The New Heroes of American Business. NY,NY: William Morrow and Co.) and Abraham Maslow's self-actualized person (Goble, F. (1971). The Third Force--The Psychology of Abraham Maslow. NY,NY: Pocket Books.), effective leaders are motivated by an inner vision, purpose and mission. This is an authentic expression of their own being and not a persona they develop to prove to others they are effective. These individuals define themselves on the basis of their "being" rather than "doing." The difference between expressing one's being and proving oneself to others is illustrated by Jan Carlzon (Carlzen, J. (1987). Moments Of Truth: New Strategies for Today's Customer-Driven Economy. NY, NY: Harper & Row.). Carlzon states that early in his career he was appointed CEO of a firm. He felt insecure and adopted the persona of what he thought a good manager was. Carlzon was ineffective. He was finally confronted by a friend for not being himself. Carlzon recognized he was seeking to prove himself and returned to being himself.

The Carlzon story suggests a critical dimension about self-examination. Knowing oneself involves seeking the thoughts, feelings, reflections and criticism of others. Individuals with healthy self-esteem seek out and form bonds with others they can trust and who are truly concerned about their development. These individuals have the maturity to listen to critics. An example is John Sculley who states that one needs to listen to and reflect upon criticism. Sculley openly admits his mistakes. A counter example is Roger Smith who breaks out in a rash when criticized (Levinson, H. (1988). "You Won't Recognize Me: Predictions About Change in Top Management Characteristic. Executive. Vol. 2, No. 2. pp. 119-125.)

This process can be facilitated through the use of an executive counselor, similar to the character of Dianna Troy, Ship's Counselor, in the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation. This person's role is to support the executive (group) in understanding the unconscious dimensions of their being. This person can also support the exploration of unconscious motivations and beliefs regarding strategic and tactical decisions. An example of an executive using a counselor is Chris Whittle, CEO of 13-30. He believes in having a therapist on his board and states that a psychotherapist is a good investment for entrepreneurs seeking to be effective executives. He points out the desire for acceptance and approval from publishing industry peers resulted in 13-30 purchasing Esquire, a major mistake because it was not congruent with the firm's strategy ("Face-To-Face: A Gathering of Entrepreneurs." (November, 1989). Inc. Vol. 11., No. 9. pp. 32-36, 39, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 50, 52, 54.).

Managing Others

Executives need to explore their beliefs about managing and their relationship with others in the organization. This process of self-examination was undertaken by G.E.'s CEO Jack Welch. Welch recognized the need to place a stronger emphasis on people. This represented a transformation in Welch's style reflecting a questioning of his basic assumptions about management and the nature of organizational effectiveness.

Self-exploration of the Meaning of Life and the Common Good

The process of self-examination also involves a philosophical quest: the answer to such questions as (1) what is the purpose and meaning of life; (2) how does one live one's values in life; (3) what is the nature of a healthy community; (4) what are the major changes and challenges one wants to make and is able to address; (5) what is the best one has to offer; and (6) what is the meaning of work in a free society? This is illustrated by the emerging trend questioning the purpose of business in society. Traditionally, the mission of businesses has been economic and focused on meeting the demands of the market. This focus is beginning to be called into question. Emerging 3rd Wave leaders are expanding their purposes to include socio-political and environmental issues. They seek to be more than one-segment leaders and are focusing on the "common good" by transcending the limits of the philosophy that business of business is business; focusing only on profit.

Ted Turner has become a leader in addressing environmental and global issues. John Sculley has focused on the crisis in education and the movement into the 3rd Wave. Anita Roddick, founder and managing director of the Body Shop International, Britain's most profitable firm, produces ecolologically sound products, supports enhancing third world suppliers and does not use Madison Avenue hype, insecurity-directed advertising. All of these individuals are not only leaders in their organizations but seek to address issues associated with the "common good."

Self-exploration and Values

The philosophical quest also requires an exploration of one's values. The nature of the firm's values will have important consequences in directing the transformation and the nature of its products and services. They will also impact organizational design issues. For example, CEO and founder of Odysseum, Joline Godfrey's process of value clarification led her to recognize that she valued life and not just business and success. This meant she needed freedom from the business and placed little value on being in control. Her values directed her toward creating a firm emphasizing self-management and long term development ("Face-To-Face: Letter to the Editor." (January, 1990). Inc. Vol. 12, No.1. pp. 31-33, 35, 37, 39.).

Value clarification also involves the discovery of "shared values," a recognition of their qualitative dimension. Values can be considered what is important in the present or in a spiritual or platonic sense (Shames, L. (1989). The Hunger For More: Searching for Values in an Age of Greedy. NY,NY: Times Book.) The latter is reflected in what Abraham Maslow called B-Values, associated with mystical and peak experiences. B-Values are eternal ideals. They can not be interpreted in light of "what is," but in the imagination and vision of what could be. They are shared values in a universal sense. An example is Marvin Weisbord's observation that the values of freedom and dignity of work have been ignored for the economic measures of efficiency and productivity. Weisbord suggests that freedom and dignity are higher values than those associated with economics (Weisborg, M. (1989). Productive Workplaces--Organizing and Managing for Dignity, Meaning and Community. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.).

The former values are reflected in Jack Welch's guiding values of simplicity, candor and self-confidence (Tichy, N. and R. Charan (September-October, 1989). "Speed, Simplicity, Self-Confidence: An Interview with Jack Welch. Harvard Business Review. Vol. 89, No. 5. pp. 112-120.). Welch's values are associated within a specific context: GE. They reflect the present and are interpreted in light of the needs and mindset of the present. While honest, they are not ideal. They are means to an end, and not ends in and of themselves.

Executives must also examine whether their values are relevant to the present time, not simply reflections of the past. To paraphrase John Gardner, executives must seek to revitalize the organization's shared values (Gardner, J. (1981). Self-Renewal--The Individual and The Innovative Society, Revised Edition. NY, NY: Norton.). Seeking to impose an interpretation of values grounded in the past onto the present to provide meaning for the future can produce disastrous consequences. An example is Ronald Reagan's emphasis on returning to past values to guide the U.S. in the 1980s. The results were an expansion of the national debt, an emphasis on consumption, greed in business and the U.S. playing a reactionary, regressive role in global affairs.


The challenge facing executives is that of transcending the fear and anxiety associated with the forces of personal transformation. They must recognize that not confronting their fears and anxieties will result in a destructive conflict with themselves. The full recognition of these human conditions will allow them to form a new vision of their personal role and the purposes of their organization in the new context.


The following readings have been helpful to me in clarifying my thoughts on this topic:

(1) Cleveland, H. (1985). The Knowledge Executive--Leadership In An Information Society. NY,NY: Truman Talley Books, E.P. Dutton;
(2) Cox, C. and Gary Cooper. (1989). "The Making of the British CEO: Childhood, Work Experience and Management Style. Executive. Vol. 3, No. 3. pp 214-45.;
(3) Grof, S. (1985) Beyond The Brain: Birth, Death and Transcendence in Psychotherapy. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.;
(4) Heider, J. (1986). The Tao of Leadership: Leadership Strategies for a New Age. NY,NY: Bantam New Age Books.;
(5) Loye, D. (February, 1984). "The Forcasting Brain: How We See The Future." The Futurist. Vol. 18, No.1. pp. 63-68.);
(6) Wolf, F.A. (1988). Parallel Universes--The Search for Other Worlds. NY,NY: Simon & Schuster.

Bob Holder is a development consultant. His St. Louis area based consulting firm works with profit and non-profit organizations and small enterprises. He was a contributor to the book, After Atlantis: Working, Managing and Leading in Turbulent Times. His, Requisite for Future Success ... Discontinuous Improvement in the Journal for Quality and Participation with Ned Hamson was the lead article in the launching of Emerald Management, the trade name for MCB Publishing in the United Kingdom. His articles have appeared in ODJ, ODP, Quality Digest, CI Magazine, Journal for Quality and Participation and Quality Journal. Bob has been devoting the last two years to teaching and doing paid and volunteer consulting in Russia. He consults, speaks and writes about innovation, strategic visioning and human systems design.

Contact Bob J. Holder at:
Gray Matter Production 620 Roosevelt Dr. Edwardsville, IL. 62025
Telephone: (618) 692-0258, Fax (618) 692-0819, e-mail: HBob372917@aol.com .

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