(A Continuation of the October 19th blog post)

By now, you should know that this family is a large one; they are the old-fashioned kind of family where they all grew up together through the generations, living only minutes from each other in the same neighborhood. In the 21st century, with the increased penetration of technology in our personal and professional lives, we are losing connection to each other, preceding condition to loneliness.

I was reading the other day that the American Psychological Association has identified chronic loneliness as a categorical illness, one that may even cause death. Much of this is caused by the technology that ‘keeps us connected.’ As you can imagine that this has probably spiked up given the pandemic and the associated social distancing that is occurring. Yes, there are ways to exchange information, even physical glances, but there is also much missing in actual physical interaction. Neuroscience once again suggests that we can keep track of 134 inputs per moment consciously; however, we are also receiving over 2 million inputs by moment unconsciously. Those 2 million pieces of information we miss when we are not sharing the same environment, touch, and gaze between two people are two million pieces of information. If we contact to do that, we lose the skill of connection with each other and the inputs that we get from others. All of this adds up to being lonely. Now, back to the dinner table.

 

Transparency: “you cannot start a conversation like that and not tell us

Justice: “Before I tell you, I said it was okay for him to come.”

Transparency: “With that intro, no need to tell me now, I know when it is.”

Authenticity: “Hey, Dr. Cryptic, lets us in on it.”

Justice: “It’s your mother’s Uncle.”

Sincerity: AND, who might that be? — Oh, wait, I think I know.”

Authenticity “You too?! — Can I get a little help here?”

Sincerity: “Its Uncle Transformative, isn’t it?”

Justice:” Now look, that was a long time ago. I’m sure he has changed.”

Transparency:” Really? Transformative has changed? What an oxymoron.”

Authenticity: “I’m brilliant, and I think I caught on. Transformative did something, and it was bad, and now we don’t like him. Well, what did he do?”

 

He used to open baseball games with the Texas Rangers opening pitch. Loved by many, revered by all, feared by some. 60 Minutes did a piece on him. He has the classic rags-to-riches story. You would pull for a guy if it were a movie (and you did get to see the end). From meager beginnings to government work, to be one of the most prolific business people in the world, he caught the hearts and ends of Americans, until he didn’t. His name — Ken Lay.

Yes, Ken Lay, the infamous CEO of Enron, died a forgettable death after sunk Enron by lying, cheating, and corrupting it to bankruptcy, including all of his faithful followers and employees.

To put the impact in perspective, here are some frightening numbers to think about. To start, between June 2000-July 2002, 22 companies went public with corporate scandals; however, in a span of that time, Enron laid off 11,000 people, had over 800M in retirement funds wiped out, and ultimately all $68B in investment — gone. From $80/share to $0.26 in 18 months. All because of Lay and his reports.

Lay was called a transformative leader at one point by the new media. The term transformational leader at that time had meaning. It was coined by academic Bernard Bass in 1985 and then later revised by Bass and Bruce Avolio in 1994. A transformational leader’s attainments were well documents, and every leader aspired to be called a ‘transformational leader.’ The traits affectionately named the “4 I’s” were, Idealized Influence, Intellectual Stimulation, Inspirational Motivation, and Individualized Consideration. One can imagine what they all stood for; idealized Influence is the way that a transformational leader exerts influence on his/her followers by painting a vision of what is to come. Intellectual Stimulation is a transformational leader’s tool to encourage innovation and stray from the norm to something better. Inspirational Motivation is how a leader uses his/her charisma to inspire others to work together and share common organizational goals. Lastly, Individualized Consideration which has a leader celebrate and respect diversity in thinking and being, helping others to coach and mentor people considering their differences.

All sounds great, huh? What happened? How could Lay be considered such a leader?

 

Transparency:”. It’s a rather long story, but the bottom line is that your uncle was not forthright with your father and me during a taut time in our lives.”

Justice: Honey, he had challenges himself that —”

Transparency: “Enough! Sorry, I just can seem to bring myself to forgive. He was a phony; he knew it. How could I ever trust someone like that again, even if he is my blood relative?”

Justice: “I understand, and there is no need to be sorry. However, I do think we need to put this behind us. The only way we are going to be able to do this is to have a civil discussion and be sure to bring some empathy with us:

Transparency: “Honestly, I still don’t know why we need to make amends. Can’t we agree that we don’t like each other and leave it alone?”

Justice:” Well, he did call and hinted that he wanted to come and see you?”

Transparency “Bol Sholz, he doesn’t give two cents about me!”

 

This aspect of transformational leadership also bothered Bass and Avolio. The fact that someone like Lay could have all of a transformational leader’s characteristics and yet be such a corrupt person. What did they miss? They set out to investigate how this type of leadership could, or especially, the person labeled as such, slip through their proverbial fingers?

One of the issues was that transformative leaders pointed back to others. Note that the four “I” ‘s for transformation connected back to the follower. The assessment for transformational leaders asked followers about how the leader behaved. It appeared that Bass and Avolio needed to add an aspect of the leader themselves, some kind of personal characteristics that would provide a view to their intentions, values, and moral conduct.

Unfortunately, Bass was unable to finish this quest as he passed away in 2007, but Avolio did get some help from others to continue this investigative leadership journey. Many of those characteristics became the basis for his renewed view at leadership, giving others insight into the person specifically, their character, and integrity; maybe we can better understand their intent. However, I would find it hard to understand under what circumstances would lying and cheating be a positive practice.

 

Justice: “Well, it’s settled, Transformative is coming for New Years, and we all have a great time.”

Transparency “I don’t know about great, but okay, if you are willing to try since he hates you as much as me, I guess I can try as well.”

Justice: “Okay, but we need to do more than just talk about it; we need to show him. Sincerity, that is where you come in.”

Sincerity: “Me? Why do I have to get in the middle of this?

Authenticity “Sis, you are good at making people feel good; I’m sure you will figure it out. Now, can we start eating? Dinner is getting cold, and Mom’s cooking doesn’t taste great when it’s cold.”

 

There is much to unpack on all the challenges set from those scales at the turn of the century if you will. However, I’m not sure we really have a good perception of its impact on people. We certainly know that it all threw our economy into a bad recession. Now, going back to those staggering numbers describing the massive negative impact that Enron had on the market, investors, and employees may be impressive. Still, it’s not until you have a personal view that you can come to appreciate the real impact. It’s not until you meet Soni.