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Future Leaders Need To Learn About People, Not Just Technology

Recently, I was asked to build an on-line leadership course using the curriculum that I teach in a face-to-face 40-hour seminar. This seemed like a “no brainer” because I’ve built on-line classes for colleges before in Blackboard and Canvas learning management platforms. Some from scratch and others from publisher content banks. The curriculum was already constructed, with a syllabus, course outline, learning outcomes, PowerPoints, self-surveys, etc. But when it came to the actual process of putting it in the learning management platform, almost all the learning activities couldn’t be accomplished because they required interaction with other people. Not just posting a discussion question and answer, or a video explanation of something, but together, real interaction, discussion, exchange of views, challenging ideology, face-to-face, vulnerable, willing to be transparent, forgiving, patient, and congruent, etc.

The real challenge in teaching leadership, as opposed to woodworking, math, or computer programming, is that we are teaching people about people. As leadership instructors we apply some of the science of psychology, sociology, communication, behavioral sciences, and many other human-related behaviors that are exclusive to being human. And leadership is about using those “sciences” and understanding of behaviors to influence people to accomplish the organization's goals. Regardless of how many emoticons you put on an e-mail, there is more communication in a fleeting facial expression, or even micro-expression. This is why videos of people are so powerful.

Take for example the Chinese reporter’s “eye-roll” on March 12, 2018 at the annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress. The headline read: “Not impressed! Chinese reporter's

dramatic eye-roll at rival journalist who 'hogs the limelight' is caught on live national TV.” As reported by, an on-line news organization, “It was an eye-roll given within a [split-second], but powerful enough to break China's internet.” The non-verbal expression caused the video to go viral. But, it was also heavily censored because, “The Communist Party of China frowns upon any form of tabloid news or different opinions coming from its scripted annual meetings” according to The Washington Post. While commenting on the matter, Hu Xijin, a left-wing editor-in-chief, urged the authority not to censor the footage. Mr. Xijin wrote on his Weibo account: “It's this kind of stuff that the public likes the most. It's in the human nature and DNA and can't be changed.”

The issue of teaching leadership, and conversely learning leadership, is that we need people to do it. We are teaching people about human nature, which took thousands of years to develop and is in our DNA, and how to get humans to do things that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise do. So, when I tried to come up with ways to have students in a fully asynchronous on-line class, taught through technology, practice the “artful application” of the sciences of leadership, I always came back to the opinion that there must be some interface with other people. How do you learn the psychological contract components of socialization without actually socializing someone or being socialized?

How do you apply the actor/observer bias of attribution without ever being an actor or observer? How do you experience the human reactions to inequity without having a reaction? Maybe we could video chat, or use some of the technology of GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, Skype, Face2Face, etc., but it always came back to the need of having other people involved.

This made me critically think about two basic questions: 1. Is such a leadership course possible? It probably is, but how well it would work is still nebulous. 2. How will future leaders learn how to work with people if technology continues to move us farther away from working with people, and leans more heavily on working through technology? Other occupations require certain components in order to learn. Computer programming would be difficult to learn without computers. Welding would be difficult to learn without metal. Biology would be difficult to learn without creatures to study. Leadership is no different. Because leadership is about influencing the behavior of people, how do you do that without people, and all of their behaviors…eye-rolling included?

So, we need to ask ourselves, as a society, as a species, how do we want to move forward? Because, if we are going to try to influence people to accomplish the goals of the organization, society, species, etc., don’t we need to know how? And can we learn that without involving other people?

Putting It All Together:

Although technology keeps moving forward, and helping us understand ourselves as humans, our future leaders will have to learn how humans behave. Not just through technology, but together, face-to-face, vulnerable, willing to be transparent, forgiving, patient, and congruent in our words and deeds. Because the future leaders of our society will still have to work with people, through people, to get goals accomplished by people, for people.

CMF Leadership training courses are behavior-based, designed around the human behavior of people and how to influence the behaviors of individuals, teams and entire organizations to achieve organizational goals.

S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling Method: This 8-hour course is designed for the one-to-one leader who is responsible for performance of those whom they lead. The leader learns how to apply the S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling Method© to handle any behavior that is consciously or even subconsciously deficient or defiant, yet still be supportive of the counselee and the goals of the organization.

Leadership Effectiveness: This 40-hour course is a competency-based leadership course, which uses 15 psychology, behavioral, social science, and communication leadership theories and practices. This course is designed to increase the leadership competency for those who are in a one-to-one leadership role, or those who are the leaders of small groups and teams of employees.

Principle Leadership for Organizations: This course is designed for the organization's upper level leaders, Senior Executives, CEO's, Presidents', VP's, Managers, etc., who are responsible for setting organizational direction, culture and/or specific organizational functions. This course is also appropriate for those who have completed the Leadership Effectiveness course and preparing themselves for a senior leadership role.

About the Author: Dr. Chris Fuzie is the author of "S.C.O.R.E. Performance Counseling: Save the Relationship, Change the Behavior," and Owner of CMF Leadership Consulting. Chris is a developer/trainer/consultant for leadership of public, private, profit, and non-profit organizations. Chris holds a Doctorate of Education (Ed.D), M.A. and B.A. in Organizational Leadership, and has graduate certificates in Human Resources and Criminal Justice Education. Chris is honorably retired from the Modesto Police Department after 28 years of public service where he last served as the Assistant Division Commander of Investigations.

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