“Obama as president-elect has displayed some of the important attributes of a leader,” said Shaw, now chancellor emeritus at SU as well as the chair of the Metropolitan Development Association. “One, he has a vision. Two, he knows how to articulate it well. And judging by the quality of the appointments that he’s made, he appears to be quite good at carrying it out.”
As far as Blagojevich, Shaw sees him as a man on the way out. “We have someone as governor who is not seen as having the integrity to do the job,” Shaw said. “If the people don’t believe you have integrity, they won’t follow.”
Shaw’s book on leadership, The Intentional Leader, has sold 2,200 copies since it was first published by Syracuse University Press in 2005. He uses it as a textbook in his SU courses on leadership. Instead of updating the original text, Shaw decided to publish The Intentional Leader—2009 Supplement, available for $11.95 at bookstores or through SU Press at www.syracuseuniversitypress.syr.edu.
Buzz words: Chancellor Emeritus Kenneth Shaw has released an addendum to his 2005 book, The Intentional Leader.
The supplement contains additional information and observations on many of the leadership topics contained in the original. Then it takes the reader to the movies, as it examines 31 films and how they relate to leadership. “Movies influence in many ways—both good and bad,” wrote Shaw in the book. “We can learn a great deal from them, particularly about leadership, if our viewing is purposeful and there is a structure to keep on track.” The book provides a short summary for each movie, followed by a series of questions that reinforce particular points.
Watching movies for clues to leadership evolved out of Shaw’s experience in the classroom. “Students will, from time to time, miss class,” he explained. “They have a lot of reasons, and about 25 percent of them are worth listening to. I decided that I didn’t want to spend my time listening to and judging students’ excuses, and instead instituted a policy of having students watch and study a film and analyze it in relation to a particular leadership issue.” The exercises turned out to be a good learning experience for the student, and Shaw decided to integrate the technique into the new book.
You might expect that Toy Story, with its leading man Buzz Lightyear, would make the list of movies touched on by Buzz Shaw. Not so. The list is heavy with titles such as Crash, and feel-good sports pieces like Remember the Titans. It also includes Apollo 13, The Devil Wears Prada, The Departed and Hotel Rwanda. There’s even a James Bond episode in there: the 2006 spy flick Casino Royale.
“At first I had a hard time seeing how Casino Royale would fit into the study of leadership. James Bond doesn’t show the attributes of a leader. He’s a loner. He doesn’t like to work in organizations, he despises them. But this study has to do with ethics and how Bond does or does not live up to his own code of ethics. Each movie is approached differently. The point is to reinforce constantly a small number of principles of leadership.”
Now that the campaign is over, Shaw has seen Obama move into the “adaptive leadership” style he admires, which involves speaking of the pains as well as the gains in his programs. He seems especially impressed with Obama’s discussion of his economic plan. “It has taken on the tone of ‘Here’s my idea; if you have a better one, I’ll listen.’ He’s engaging people with the issue and saying what the cost will be. Most people, I think, are intelligent enough to understand the issues.”
The Shaw take on leadership places a premium on the ability to articulate a vision. When asked if George W. Bush was hindered by his difficulties with the English language, Shaw didn’t seem to think that the decline of the Bush presidency had as much to do with the malapropos as it did with the policies.
“The second attribute of a leader is an ability to tell a story clearly and plainly,” he noted. “You don’t have to be a great communicator when you are making decisions that are popular. I don’t think President Bush’s communication skills are to blame for his rating. It’s not his articulation of the issues that people didn’t like: They didn’t like what he did. If he were the most silver-tongued individual it still wouldn’t help his ratings.”