Social Awareness

The greatest virtues are those which are most useful to other persons.

Aristotle, Rhetoric
Greek critic, philosopher, physicist, & zoologist (384 BC - 322 BC)

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa at her Gala performance in Auckland recently, spoke about giving back to the singing community after years of service within the operatic world.  She has set up a few trusts around the world to encourage young people into the art of Opera.  Her name alone influences others to aspire to greatness who might not have considered doing so otherwise.  This young woman from the back blocks of Gisborne has made the world her stage and thrilled audiences with her exquisite voice instrument.


What are the factors that influence us: different forms of media, our upbringing, people we respect, people we do not respect, things that make us smile/laugh.  There are numerous events that occur on a daily/weekly/monthly/annual basis that influence us and frequently we are unaware of being influenced, especially if the change is gradual.  Very few people go through life and have a “Damascus Road” conversion – that is a bolt out of the sky that changes us permanently.  And those that do get the bolt of the sky experience do not have a high success rate at staying in the new “head space” – they are high maintenance to keep up on their high.  For most of us change is a slow and meaningful progression. 


Dame Kiri did not attain her Operatic SuperStar status overnight and neither will she disappear quickly, even after death.  Why?  Change has been about years of hard work and discipline – going in small steps at a time.  Maybe our politicians could learn a thing or two from her model.


In China, the dominant leadership style is “paternalistic”. B.S, Cheng, L. Chou, T Wu, Paternalistic leadership and subordinate responses: Establishing a leadership model in Chinese organisations Asian Journal of Social Psychology (2004) 7: 89 -117.  In western society paternalistic has been replaced with transformational leadership.  There is something to be learnt from paternalistic or matriarchal leadership that can be lacking in western leadership and that is the role of respect and wisdom.  Globally we are in the early stages of a transformation from western to eastern economic domination.  It is easy to go for simple cliché reasons for the shift, but in reality it is a complex matrix.  Part of the matrix (and only part) is the role of leadership combined with wisdom and respect.  Can someone who you do not respect (at some level) shift your opinion?  The first criterion for being able to influence others is that of earning their respect.  In any culture, patriarchs or matriarchs are capable of being over turned if they lose respect or fail in the wisdom stakes.  Often wisdom and respect are inter-connected.


Influence and manipulation are different concepts and with transformational leadership, many of us will have experienced the feeling of manipulation by managers.  To gently influence and win the respect of staff and customers takes time.  Modern western business practice is about speed.  Lately I have been working with a senior person from the forestry industry – his definition of speed and mine are a long way apart.  He talks in decades when I talk in years.  For me a strategic plan is five years, for him it is one hundred years.  His influence is gentle and methodical.  He is of eastern descent and I of western.  It has been a great experience to work with him and learn from him.  We are often influenced by personality and yet little research has been conducted in the area.

J. Bono & T. Judge Personality and transformational and transactional leadership: A meta analysis Journal of Applied Psychology 2004 Vol 89 pg 901 says:

“A recent study of PsycINFO search revealed that 1,738 of the 15,000 articles (12%) published since 1990 on the topic of leadership included keywords personality and leadership.”

Does this mean that researchers believe that leaders are devoid of personality or is this “invisible man” of research where it is so taken for granted as a concept that it is over looked?  And yet the personality of the leader plays a significant role in how they influence us.  Think about your own career/personal life and what type of person influences you.  Write down their personality, describe it to yourself.  Do this with five to six people and then look for trends within their personality.  I would be surprised if you do not find significant common trends in those personality profiles.


Are the people who are influencing you, taking you to new levels; are they confirming who are you are the moment and in one sense keeping you in a holding pattern; are they controlling/dominating you in some way that when you step back from yourself unemotionally, you discover they are turning your growth trend line into a downwards slope as opposed to an upward trend.  Often family members will appear in the influencing circle of our lives and yet how often do we take cognisance of the influence they have on us.  When you hear a voice in your head influencing you on any aspect of your life, how often do you take time to analyse whose voice it is you are hearing.  Why does the persons voice you hear influence you in the way that it does and is this the correct voice to be listening to?  Where is your own independent thought?


This blog has been riddled with questions that I hope will challenge you.  Instead of listing questions as I have done in the past, use the questions within the blog to challenge yourself – you might be surprised with what you find. 


The next blog will explore leaders developing others