Tuesday, April 13, 2010

And now for something Slightly More Meaty

So aside from the fact that I've been cajoled and begged by a bunch of people to start a blog for years (and I'm not trying to brag here... I'm not really sure why they wanted me to blog. Maybe they figured that if I spent more time blogging, I'd spend less time bothering them?), there were two major reasons for me to finally revisit the NeverTown and download this blogging software: first, because my wife and I are about to have twins, making this an excellent outlet for cute little pictures, funny parenting stories, and good child-rearing advice, like the below*:

However, as of now, said twins are only beginning to make the transition from tiny blobs to tiny fetuses... fetus's... fetusi? Anyway, not too much to talk about there, and not too many pics to share unless you have a fetish for Debby's rapidly expanding belly.

The second reason for the blog is to share, discuss, and gain feedback on all of the fascinating management and leadership knowledge I will (hopefully) gain starting this August as I begin my term as a doctoral fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology (one of the top business schools in the country... great excitement!), specializing in Organizational Behavior. And that, at least, I can start to talk about.

The largest duty (heh... I said 'doody') of the doctoral student is to write a comprehensive "first-year paper," one which researches in some great detail one particular and somewhat specific topic in the field. I've been talking a lot with one of GT's many open-minded and helpful faculty member about a topic that very much interests me: leadership, and its relationship to self-monitoring tendencies.

I think we all know what leadership is here... (Or do we? Well, that's a topic for another time) but in case you aren't clear on it, self-monitoring is the tendency for people to monitor what they say and do in order to make other people happy, or to make others look at you with a more positive outlook. So, the question is... do high or low self-monitors make better leaders? Think about it... high self-monitors will change their answers to make other people feel more comfortable, bend their beliefs to foster consensus, and work harder to build a loyal and cooperative team-unit. Low self-monitors will stand by their principles no matter what, won't care what others think about them, and expect their team to change to meet their own beliefs and values.

I'm honestly not sure what the answer to the question is... in fact, I could and have made strong arguments in both directions. And academic research seems a bit mixed in this area, too... although it does lean a bit in one direction, from what I've heard. I find it a very interesting question, though, because I'm a geek like that, and leadership and org. behavior topics like this fascinate me.

So what do you think? What would your boss think? What would your teachers think? What would Kenny Chesney think?

* Thanks to Carrie Perez, my lifetime funny-pics supplier! She gave me a free fix, and any day now she's going to start charging me....


  1. Kenny Chesney's an asshat.

    (And to check the front, if they're 'sposies, just grab the front. If it's spongy, they're wet. If it's crinkly, they're dry. You can't be shy about grabbing baby crotch.)

  2. I can tell you that I'm a low self-monitor, and it makes me very satisfied and happy. However, I think I'd prefer working with people who are high self-monitors...because I want them to just agree with me so I can get my stuff done with minimal crap from others.

  3. This is an interesting debate. I can totally see arguing both sides of this conversation. And, I'm not even sure I comprehend enough about the definition of self-monitoring to adequately add to the conversation.

    But, from my limited perspective, I'll provide the following.

    I do not believe there is an answer to whether self-monitoring correlates to whether or not someone is or has the capacity to be a great leader.

    The first reason is, because you have to universally come up with a definition of leadership that people will agree on. If you do not have that tied down, then, whatever conclusion you can research and draw on can be shot down because there is not agreeance on what a "great leader" is.

    Second, I think you'll find that even if you do find agreeance on a universal definition of leadership, you will not find a universal situation in which leadership can be applied.

    My guess is that what you'll find is that self monitoring and its relative scoring will find a stronger correlation between situations leaders find themselves rather than leaders specifically.

    For example, a mayor can be a great leader. But, if your the mayor of NYC on 9/11 I think I'd rather have a leader in place with a low self-monitor than high. He/she needs to take action and lead without regard to "what people think of them."

    Another example I don't want a high self monitor in is a Supreme Court Justice...or any judge for that matter. I think I'd rather have you stick to your principles than wavering based on what others think of your decision.

    On the other hand, if you're trying to build a coalition, all-inclusive organization, seeks partnerships, or truly need a variety of inputs in order to make a complex decision, I don't think I want a low self monitoring leader in that role.

    My uneducated feeling on this is that organizations and situations need access to a full range of self-monitoring leaders. The key is to deploy them in such a fashion as to ensure they are the right leader for the right situations.

    It would be like asking are great leaders creative or uncreative or are great leaders great speakers or poor speakers. You can line up a list both ways of great leaders on both sides, and I believe self monitoring will be the same outcome.

    My guess is that leaders who are low self-monitors tend attract extremes. They either attract people who agree with them or they attract a high number of high self monitors who will bend to their will as Kate shared.

    I would surmise that organizations with high self monitors tend to be more inclusive, welcoming, and attract a wider range of diverse viewpoints and opinions, but, that you'll find them at odds frequently with the low self monitors.

    Good luck with your study on this. It will be interesting to see what the research shows.