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Style vs. Substance

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In our current OCA conflict, commentators are taking opposing sides to the argument of whether actions of individual hierarchs, particularly Metropolitan Jonah, are matters of style or substance.

I offer up the following leadership behaviors questions for reflection by both sides in this conflict.  Nearly all of these are actual situations I’m familiar with, unrelated to our OCA conflict. For each one, consider whether it’s “style” or “substance.” I’d encourage readers to think about the “why” of each answer.

  1. A manager prefers email conversations to conference calls or in-person meetings. Is the manager’s preferred communication best attributed to style or substance?
  2. A corporate executive has no trouble making most decisions, but some of them, particularly those involving difficult interpersonal situations, has him regularly deferring those decisions until they’re critical. Is his procrastination a matter of style or substance?
  3. A team member absolute hates dealing with the rest of his team. He is hard to reach by telephone, responds to emails not more than twice per week, and provides only minimal information in response, so as to guard his standing on the team. Is his refusal to engage a matter of style or substance?
  4. Steve Jobs (Founder and CEO of Apple Inc) and Bobby Knight (legendary basketball coach) both have well-established reputations for screaming, table-pounding fits of passion when dealing with members of their teams who are not doing what they want. Is this method of dealing with disappointment or disagreement style or substance?
  5. A company CEO prefers the counsel of his trusted advisors to the counsel of paid professionals and senior managers brought in by his peers, accepting guidance from the former but rejecting the latter. Is the CEO’s decision to trust his own advisors a matter of style or substance?
  6. Former President Clinton preferred appointing trusted friends to sensitive positions, even when the friends appeared to lack the necessary qualifications and senior advisors questioned the wisdom of such appointments. Did Clinton’s actions qualify as style, or substance?
  7. A manager in a corporation learns of intimidation and abuse taking place within his team. He chooses to speak privately with the problem employee, failing to mention it in the human resources file in violation of corporate policies, in order to minimize the consequences for what he perceives as a minor transgression. Is the manager’s decision style or substance?
  8. Roman Catholic Monsignor William Lynn has been indicted with the accusation that he routinely transferred priests known to be molesting young men and boys to other parishes in order to cover up the abuse, protect the priests, and avoid embarrassing questions. If true, are Msgr. Lynn’s actions style or substance?
  9. A leader thinks some actions are critical to the success of the group, but, lacking a budget, plan, or management consensus to carry them out, nonetheless presents them to the entire organization as a certainty. Is the leader’s determination to proceed a matter of style or substance?
  10. A recent Presidential candidate campaigned on a platform of honesty and transparency in his administration, along with promises to continue holding corrupt elements in previous administrations responsible for their actions. Upon his election, the new President continued speaking of these things. After comparing his actions to the previous administration’s, it was determined that policies had seen no significant changes, and numerous questionable figures continued their service for the new President. Are the President’s actions style or substance?
  11. A school superintendent is arrested around 8 a.m. on a school day, with a blood alcohol content in excess of .25% and a woman in his car who is not his wife. After deliberations, the school board asked for the superintendent’s resignation. Was his behavior style or substance?

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

March 26th, 2011 at 5:31 pm

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