Leadership Development

Many associations and corporations speak of leadership development but don’t know where to begin. We were recently offering a women’s leadership training, exploring leadership styles in organizations. It soon became clear that one of the most sophisticated skills one can have in Leadership is to recognize the distinction between just following the rules and addressing crises that transcend the rules.


Imagine a situation where an emergency that arises. Now an employee sees this happen and acts quickly, with good intentions and solves the problem. Now imagine that this company has a strict written policy that any problem must be reported to a manager immediately and as a result an employee is prohibited from taking action without the managers approval.

In such a situation corporate policy, no matter how well thought out, and good intentioned cannot address this obvious dilemma

All this presents an interesting question. Should the good Samaritan employee be fired for violating the rules or be rewarded for preventing a catastrophe?

The answer is not as easy or as obvious as you might think. Do to social networking it is not the company that decides what to do in the end. It is the large net community that forces the decision. In many cases an individual has been terminated for violating a corporate policy, for the most part an effective and appropriate policy and yet once the story went viral the company had to “spin” the intrepatation of the rule and backtrack on its decision to fire the worker.

There is a lesson I learned during my shamanic apprenticeship back in the 1970s. My teacher said “If you create too many rigid rules, there is a tipping point where you must violate the rules just to function effectively.”

In many situations “personal interpretation” by a manager or team leader will determine what is to happen.  This a real problem. Is the rule to be obeyed strictly so everyone can claim “I only followed orders” no matter how negative the consequences may be? Or does the leader violate the code and suffer the possible consequences for doing so?  Large organizations may have standardized policies but often have little control over how those polices are carried out.

There is no magic formula here. Only a happy ending where happy endings are needed.

Life is not black and white. It is more like 5 billion shades of gray.

In the game of life there will always be rules of play, codes for appropriate behavior and laws that present accountability when violated

Most corporate policies and laws when most effectively thought out, and applied appropriately, limit uncivil behavior such as shouting, shoving, and violence.

But the perfection of an imperfect world guarantees that events will arise that corporate meeting, notices sent from the corporate office, inspections, rules, codes and laws cannot address.

What is the lesson here? My take on it is that rules need not be written in stone and those that interpret them need to be part lawyer, part judge,  wise sage, a well tuned corporate player, a great leader, a humanitarian, and in possession of common sense and street smarts.

If the leadership of an organization is given a bit of an entrepreneurial streak within the corporate culture you will have people in leadership from top to bottom that is capable now and then of going “going out of the box” here and there as needed. All the staff meetings in the world will not create this sense of wisdom. This is a solution to the dilemma of companies that claim to support managers in making wise decision and them having rules and codes and rules that are so rigid that they are unable to do so.

It is all walking the fine line here, creating and supporting leaders and managers who do things like this, but not encouraging them to do it at the same time.



Lewis Harrison is a former association executive and an expert on leadership and stress management. He is a radio talk show host, speaker, consultant, practical philosopher.


Lewis is a pioneer in the personal development movement.  The author of nine self help books on human potential he offers a monthly retreat/seminar “How to Solve Any Problem”.  He also and phone based coaching.

He owns a corporate chair massage and stress management consulting company that offer chair massage in New York City (Chair Massage NYC) . Their website is www.eventschairmassage.com


The subject of this  blog is explored more fully through Lewis E-book “A Primer To Lewis Harrison’s Applied Game Theory”.  Lewis’  book  “The Art of Leadership”, is available as a $7.00 e-book. You can order it directly from Lewis by calling him at 212-724-8782.


Lewis offers phone-based and on-line life coaching services and a monthly workshop/Retreat – a simple program for decision making based on Game Theory, the idea expanded on by John Nash, the Nobel Prize winning subject of the biopick “A Beautiful Mind”.

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