Eagles and Sparrows

bald eagle

Serve to Lead identified an emerging trend of 21st century leadership: private lives becoming interwoven with public lives.

That trend is becoming ever more conspicuous. It’s at the core of recent scandals relating to sexual affairs involving high executives in U.S. intelligence, the military, and a renowned defense contractor.

Where are we now?

Character as Competitive Advantage

There is no question that having a spotless record of personal probity is a competitive advantage. Just ask the individuals who are succeeding those who are being removed for transgressions. Acknowledged integrity is of particular value to anyone whose tasks include initiating major organizational or cultural change. It removes a means by which opposition can marginalize or remove a threat to existing arrangements.

Eagles and Sparrows

That’s not the end of the discussion, though. The fact is that people of out-sized accomplishment or ambition may have corresponding, conspicuous failings.

Is it realistic to demand that eagles have the virtues of sparrows?

People who’ve made few mistakes tend to be comfortable with the conventional. Turning to mediocrity may appear to be a refuge–yet it can be a lethal lure. Eagles may be a trial to bring into the fold–yet, they may prove invaluable when excellence and the higher virtues are on trial.

When you summon eagles, will only a flock of sparrows remain to respond?

What About You?

These issues resonate, because they arise in all types of organizations.

Identifying eagles and sparrows can be of vital importance. An organization may well require both. A task of management is to find their respective places and bring them together into a productive relationship. And it must be recalled that one person’s life and work may move from sparrow to eagle–or the other way around.

Great crises may call forth eagles. Run of the mill times, commonplace situations may be well served by sparrows.

Are you able to recognize the value of both types? Are you able to evaluate and deploy them effectively–from the point of view of the various internal and external stakeholders you’re serving? Or are you reacting to the failings of eagles based upon your own predilections, who or what you identify with, or your own short-term self-interest? Is the leadership task at issue fungible–or does one individual fit the moment? Is there a risk of focusing too much on inputs and intentions–and too little on results?

Eagles and Sparrows