GUIDELINES FOR LEADERS Lessons in Ethical Leadership from Sitting Bull
THE LITTLE BIGHORN This was the greatest loss ever handed the U.S. army. Most discussions have focused on the errors of Custer as an explanation. Here, we look at the brilliant - and ethical - decisions made by Sitting Bull that led to victory.
Little Big Horn A contrast in ethical leadership
What kind of leader are you? • We ask, what kind of leader are YOU, not what kind of leaders do we have. • Tribal Leaders with Character is about taking personal responsibility. • As a leader, we applaud you for your continued willingness to learn. At the end of this presentation are references to continue your education further.
LT. COL. GEORGE CUSTER (An Antithesis to Sitting Bull) “Leaders like Custer . . . pursue single-minded objectives that distort their own personal missions and those of their organizations, corrupting the very foundation of leadership. Existing only for themselves and the sycophants who protect them, they create a black hole of selfishness that ultimately collapses in on itself.” (Murphy & Snell, p. xxviii)
Results of “Custer leadership” • Two of Custer’s ethical faults were being abusive to those who disagreed with him and wanting to take all of the credit for himself. • As a result … • He received fewer warnings about the superior Sioux numbers and ignored those warning he did receive, and, • He attacked without waiting for reinforcements. • The rest, as they say, is history …
“Sycophant isn’t a Dakota word.” A ‘sycophant’ is defined in the dictionary as ‘a servile flatterer’. We call these people ‘yes-men’ -- or something worse.
Sitting Bull “[Sitting Bull] chose to create a new order in which the rights of the individual were balanced by a commitment to the welfare of the overall community.” Where heroic leadership builds on shared commitment, non-heroic leadership drives toward personal glory.” (Murphy & Snell, p. xxviii)
Are you Custer or Sitting Bull? No one likes to hear about problems, but sometimes it’s necessary. What do you do when an employee or co-worker points up an ethical problem? What if it would interfere with your plans to hire an employee or get grant money that you think you need? What if it would cause problems because one of the people involved has political connections?
What kind of leader are you? “Leadership starts with commitment the bonding between leader and followers behind a common purpose.” (p. 4) Sitting Bull: Led through commitment, through service to others, Custer: Led through contempt, through selfishness and exploitation. “For each, their vision set priorities for those under their command …” (p. 4)
Do You Use Your Position for Personal Gain? • Have you hired relatives over others who were more qualified? • Do you travel on “tribal business” and then spend your days shopping or sight-seeing?
Three Acts of Personal Courage • According to the The lessons of Sitting Bull • “. . . the first step on the path to leadership is a private one, in which a leader solves the great paradox that lies at the heart of leadership success: that self-fulfillment comes from service to others.” (p. 5) • Recognize the need to change. • Search for knowledge needed to accomplish change. • 3. Share the struggle to make the change a new reality.
You: A courageous leader We congratulate you on taking this path. You are taking this course because you recognize the need for change and are willing to change.
Community of Commitment Sitting Bull saw seven distinct steps to infuse commitment into a group of people. Step 1. Establish a context within which people can understand the cause. Step 2. Inspire hope in the cause. Step 3. Build a consensus. Step 4. Develop a plan for action. Step 5. Assemble and prepare the team for action. Step 6. Implement the plan. Step 7. Evaluate team performance for improvement.
Steps to Commitment • 1. Establish a context this course discuses the loss of money and trust that comes from unethical behavior. • Inspire hope in the cause. How often have you heard, • “Nothing will ever change.” • “It won’t make any difference.” • In this course, we want you to know, to believe, that you will make a difference. • Step 3. Build a consensus. We see this happening on reservations now. More and more people are demanding change from the old unethical ways.
Steps to Commitment 4. Develop a plan for action. This course ends with an action plan. The remaining steps are for you to take now. We will revisit these in our future courses.
Build Trust “All leaders must instill trust in their people. Without trust, commitment will die and the community will lose the constancy of purpose that strengthens the group bond.” (Murphy & Snell, p. 24) Sitting Bull: Built trust as part of a strategy for revitalizing the Sioux. Sitting Bull’s people trusted him to guide them, to serve their needs. Custer: Custer cast distrust throughout the ranks of his men; they did not like him.
Build Trust Are you a leader that your people trust? Do you treat people in a fair manner so that your employees and co-workers like you? If you think you could use a little help in this area, please see our section on Emotional Intelligence. Also, read our section on Moral Collapse to see the warning signs of mistrust.
Live the Experienceof Your People “Sitting Bull knew that he must first seek to understand his people before he could expect to be understood by them.” (p. 74) Sitting Bull: He lived among his people claiming no special privileges. He ate what they ate, slept where they slept, traveled among them, and shared the responsibilities of daily life. Custer: He remained aloof from his people. He treated them with the same contempt he treated his enemies. Custer rode the best horses, ate the best food, and slept apart from his men. He did not know them.
What kind of leader are you? Do you “claim no special privileges”? Do you come to work whenever you want, work however many hours you want, and then expect those you supervise or your co-workers to put in a forty-hour week? Do you stay in four-star hotels in Washington while your people don’t have heat in their homes?
Be a Healer Sitting Bull: Leaders bestow beneficence, generosity and compassion upon their people. They are responsible for their people’s welfare. Custer: was taught to be a one-dimensional thinker. His goals were based solely on his personal ambitions and the careers of his benefactors. He was after personal glory. “For Custer, charity and compassion were alien concepts, unmanly acts demanded by weak underlings and provided by misguided leaders.” (p. 96)
Be a Healer Compassion in the workplace: Yes, we need to adhere to policies and procedures. However, do you have the strength and courage to show compassion? Rose was a tribal worker who had been sober for two years. After the death of her son, she was drunk for three days and missed work. The tribe had a “no tolerance policy” and she should have been fired. When she tearfully admitted her reason for absence, her supervisor did not fire her, but gave her a warning that she would be fired if it happened again, citing Rose’s two years of excellent work as a justification for not terminating her.
Communicate onMany Levels Sitting Bull: Sitting Bull gathered information from all levels of his people: other chiefs, scouts, tribesmen, elderly, women, children, etc. He was in touch with all locations of the “Sioux” world. Custer: Isolated himself so he and his men entered the Battle of the Little Bighorn deaf, dumb, and blind. He failed to cooperate with superiors, ignoring orders: he failed to listen to advice, and he paid the price.
Do you listen? Are you a leader who listens to advice, from whatever source? Do you listen to the concerns of youth, of elders, of community members served by your program?
Communicate! The Tribal Leaders with Character project offers multiple means of communication: • Post on the Spirit Lake Forum (www.spiritlakeconsulting.com/forum/ • Send your opinion through the “Your Turn” forms on our website • Write an article for Miniwakan News
Communicate on many levels! If you feel the need to remain anonymous, we will respect your privacy. You never need to include your name or email on our “Your turn” forms. You can log in to the Spirit Lake Forum as anonymous. The password is tribaljoe .
Think of the Future “Sitting Bull planned for the welfare of generations;Custer planned for one moment of personal glory.” When YOU make decisions, are you planning for the future? Do you look at giving a per capita payment so you can receive more votes in the next election, or are you looking at economic development, making the tribe financially sound, investing in our schools and early childhood programs?
Redefine theRules of Battle “Creative leaders redefine the rules of battle to turn their enemy’s strengths into a weakness.” (p. 200) Sitting Bull: He questioned all the standing assumptions. He encouraged team learning, where people create new ways to tap their potential. All for the good of the team. “Team learning depends on shifting people’s focus from their own individual performance to the way that performance fits into the whole unfolding strategy.” (p. 200) Custer: Shunned team learning. He held his men in disdain. He cared little for team goals or team welfare.
What kind of a leader are you? Do you share power? Do you support the decisions of those who work for you? Or do you allow others to ignore the chain of command? Do you overturn the decisions of your subordinates when asked for a favor by a relative or a council member?
Welcome Crisis A crisis is a decision point, when we choose between two paths. This is an opportunity for us to improve our situation. With this course, we have had obstacles where individuals were afraid to speak out publicly for fear of retribution. We saw this as an opportunity to create a forum, anonymous forms, places where tribal members could speak freely and let others know they are not alone in their ethical concerns.
Measure the Results “Without clear leadership criteria, we will continue to place our country in jeopardy of being manipulated by individuals who, like Custer, take advantage of the absence of such standards to establish their own self-serving criteria for what effective leadership means.” Could it be that in the 21st century we are more like Custer than Sitting Bull in our leadership styles? Measuring our leaders against ethical criteria is one way to return to our traditions.
Learn even more .. We highly recommend the following book, quoted throughout this presentation… Murphy, E. C., & Snell, M. (1993). The Genius of Sitting Bull, 13 Heroic Strategies for Today’s Business Leaders. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.