I just started reading a book called Deep Change by Robert E. Quinn. I have only hit page four before I am having doubts. Let me quote the long passage I have a possible issue with:
“A colleague once told me about a group of executives in a large state government who were interested in leadership training. They were particularly interested in teaching transformational leadership. They wanted to develop public administrators who would take initiative, who would make deep change in their organizations. Given the negative stereotype of public administrators as resistant bureaucrats, they wondered if there were any transformational leaders in any agency of their government. They decided to investigate and find out.
“Their analysis revealed a number of cases of people who had made dramatic transformations within their various organizations. One person took over an office renowned for long lines and offended citizens. A year later it was the best office in the system. Another person took over a hospital where conditions had long been scandalous. Two years later, it was a nationwide model. Eventually, they decided to make a video about some of these transformational leaders. Teams went out to interview the leaders. They returned with bad news. The video could not be made, In every single case, the transformational leader had, at least once, broken a state law. To transform the ineffective organization into an effective one, required forms were not turned in, regulations were ignored, and directives were violated.
“Does this mean that to be a transformational leader and make deep change in an organization, one has to break the law? No.”
I suspect that the real answer is “Yes, in every single case.” The transformational leaders found that out for themselves “in every single case.” Quinn has a lot of convincing to do for me to believe that intransigent systems will ever change without profound violations of their rules and regulations. At least he is honest with himself about what happened right up front. The quote is from pages four and five.
Rules and regulations are designed to preserve the status quo. Systems never, in my personal experience within my family, employers, and churches I have belonged to, approve of violating the rules they put into place for the sake of their self-preservation. Rules are for the protection of the few at the expense of the many. They exist to prevent unpredictability and conscientious uprisings.
Young people today have figured all this out and have, consequently, rejected participation in cultural institutions wholesale. The systems say, “Take it or leave it.” Young people respond by simply never joining in the first place. They preemptively “leave it.” Churches and the Republican Party are particularly feeling the sting of rejection from the surprisingly wise generations.
With my MBA, I would love to be a transformational leader. I believe that many systems desperately need to change for the betterment of the many and the survival of the system itself. However, as I have said previously, many people and systems would rather die than change. I’ve seen it. I ain’t attending their funeral. Do I have issues? Absolutely.
I hope the book provides some helpful ideas. At the very least, I feel that Quinn understands some of the issues.