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Reflections for the Parade of Future Leaders Published: Sunday, November 5, 2006 By: Dr. Manuel Ńngel Morales

Organizational research clearly points toward the importance of legends in helping to develop an identity of any sort, particularly those legends that help people to triumph over very difficult conditions and realities.  Thus, the romanticism and glorification of early, contemporary and future heroes as the foundation of national legend building.  Various cultural values facilitate this process, like common man-woman ideal, team players, pride in work, and fearlessness in the face of danger, individual sacrifice, and huge sense of devotion as key attributes, among others, that describe the societyís heroes.  InPuerto Ricothe spotlight easily moves across some occupations as sport figures, actors, writers, artists and business leaders. 

The publicís fascination with different types of heroes will change with the shift of location of greatest uncertainty, or with the collective desire to escape, at least for a moment, from social wilderness context to the unfortunately battle ground of a traditional workplace.

Regardless of whether society is searching for its heroes to observe leadership behavior in a given period, many executive leaders fashion their professional images around a heroic self-concept.  They present themselves as self-made professionals, conquering mayor difficulties and setbacks; showing resiliency as a result of a huge determination; proving some kind of invincibility and great courage; articulating visions to transform reality; rarely being humble to state what they think and feel; behaving as self and institutional promoters with healthy ego strength to stand up to many critics; and being guided by a sense of social responsibility manifested by a desire to make an even larger social impact than the enormous transformations that they have introduced at work.

With a huge commitment to learning and to acquiring knowledge, plus an intense emotional dedication, the executive leaders of this new century write books, deliver public addresses, and become prominent advocates of social and future causes that are important to their country.  The heroism of robust executive leaders take them to proclaim changes, innovations and technologies as fundamental aspects of constructive entrepreneurship, defining it as a titanic historic curiosity for formulating and implementing ideas. 

Again, we stress the blending between the symbolic and substantive aspects of leadership.  The creation of meaning through symbolic and substantive undertakings is very important aspects of executive leadership.  The creation of meaning through symbolic behavior is one way a leader of a culture guides a team to collective actions.  It is very naÔve to judge leadersí strength only by their effective utilization of formal command structures.  As it is well known, bureaucracies are always complex matrices of chains of command and labyrinths, and in order to produce results the leader has to navigate through these difficult passages.

A more than half a century of organizational research has continually supported the idea that symbolic acts of leadership have practical applications, and that leaders accomplish these symbolic goals by: 1)inspiring actions; 2)resolving conflict, 3)building networks, and 4)exchanging information in informal ways that bypass a formal chain of command.

Leaders reinforce collective values by designing membership rituals, allocating status, structuring the context of work, institutionalizing some internal myths and stressing statements of institutional vision, purpose and action.

Through informal, relational and symbolic acts, leaders shape a work culture and project their individual personalities into the organization.  This process takes time and it is never completed in a short term.  (R.C. Atchley, The Social Forces of Later Life).

Of course, leadership is always about being, knowing, living and doing things in the context of a family setting, a learning environment, a community and an enterprise.  At the end, leaders will have to show conscience, faith, love, passion, commitment, ingenuity and heroic behavior in order to produce results and establish their legacy.

Copyright 2006 QBS, Inc.
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