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On teaching leadership intervention science in action theoretical background and design of a lecture on leadership

Zum Lehren von Führung (Interventionswissenschaft in Aktion) Theoretischer Hintergrund und Beschreibung einer Lehrveranstaltung zum Thema Führung

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Abstract

This paper describes theoretical concepts of leadership with a focus on emotions within organizations. According to the ‘Jonah’ sequence in the movie “Master and Commander” (Weir, Master and Commander. The far side of the world. Twentieth Century Fox. DVD, 2003), leadership is interpreted by using psychodynamic concepts. This paper argues that the movie sequence serves as a starting point for teaching leadership by discussing students’ viewpoints, including their affective reaction to the sequence, accompanied by the lecturers’ psychodynamic interpretation.

Furthermore, this paper uses a didactic concept, developed from the field of intervention science, to teach leadership to students by using actual emotions from within the student group. Therefore, the ‘Jonah’ movie sequence is used as the nucleus of the process, allowing the instructor to start at the dissociated (transcendent) position of ‘someone else there and then.’ During the teaching process, the lecturer facilitates exploration of the associated (immanent) position of ‘me (individual student)/the group (of students) here and now. The teaching is designed as a ‘journey into immanent reflection of leadership,’ facilitated by the lecturer. The increased ability to spot, discuss and reflect emotions within the context of organizations is the outcome of this ‘learning by experience.

Zusammenfassung

Dieser Aufsatz beschreibt theoretische Konzepte von Führung mit einem Schwerpunkt auf Emotionen innerhalb von Organisationen. Die Sequenz ‚Jonas‘ aus dem Film „Master and Commander“ (Weir, Master and Commander, Bis ans Ende der Welt. Twentieth Century Fox. DVD, 2003) wird dazu verwendet Führung mittels psychodynamischer Konzepte zu interpretieren. In der Interaktion mit Studierenden dient die Filmsequenz ‚Jonas‘ der Lehrperson zur Einleitung einer Diskussion über Führung. Insbesondere werden dabei die studentischen Gesichtspunkte und deren emotionale Betroffenheit abgefragt und aus psychodynamischer Sicht interpretiert.

Außerdem wird ein, aus der Interventionswissenschaft stammendes, didaktisches Konzept beschrieben, dass dazu dienen soll Führung mittels aktuell auftretender Emotionen innerhalb der StudentInnengruppe zu lehren. Zu diesem Zweck dient die Filmsequenz ‚Jonas‘ als Keim für einen Prozess, der in der dissoziierten (transzendenten) Position ‚jemand anderer dort und dann‘ beginnt. In weiterer Folge des Prozesses ermöglicht die Lehrperson eine Erkundung der assoziierten (immanenten) Position ‚ich (einzelner Student)/die Gruppe (der StudentInnen) hier und jetzt‘. Die Lehrsituation soll eine ‚Reise in eine – im Hier und Jetzt stattfindende – Reflexion‘ über Führung darstellen. Der Nutzen dieses ‚Lernens durch (emotionale) Erfahrung‘ ist die verbesserte Fähigkeit Emotionen im Kontext von Organisationen wahrzunehmen, zu diskutieren und zu reflektieren.

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Notes

  1. ECTS European Credit Transfer System. For detailed information see: http://ec.europa.eu/education/tools/docs/ects-guide_en.pdf (access on 2nd January 2015).

  2. Leadership, in differentiation to management, ‘… implies looking to the future, pursuing an ideal or goal. Furthermore, leadership by definition implies followership, while management does so by a much lesser degree’ (Obholzer 1994a, pp. 43).

  3. Tacit knowledge is here seen as knowledge on how to do something right without having an elaborated theory of the underlying interrelations.

  4. This paper differentiates reflection on immanent phenomena and transcendent knowledge as a more general concept of directness and uncertainty in contradiction to detachment and certainty (see page 22). While the ideal type of transcendent knowledge is storable immanent phenomena are elusive and to store those is not impossible but rather difficult and merely done in myths and tales.

  5. Here it is important to understand, that the problem for those affected remains the same no matter whether the threat is real or imagined.

  6. The best way to get an idea about the expression not being in touch with life might be to listen to the famous song ‘The Rose’ e. g. interpreted by Bette Midler (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxSTzSEiZ2c, accessed on 12th January 2015). Here two parts of the text: […] it’s the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance […] and the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live […].

  7. Defense within the context of this paper is seen as the psychological respectively mental reaction of a person and/or a group to external facts and/or internal fantasies.

  8. In the ‘Jonah’ movie scene there is a brief sequence where Dr. Maturin accusingly remarks to captain Aubry that he, like many other men, also might believe in the curse of Hollom [01:17:41–01:17:56].

  9. This is a very common way of leaders to step out of their responsibility to contain anxieties of their subordinates. The scapegoat takes all the blame and gives relief to anxieties of the leader as well as of the subordinates. An interesting movie addressing the issue of a sacrifice provided by a leader to avoid responsibility is ‘Wag the Dog’ (Levinson 1999).

  10. For the relevant cast of the movie see the attachment.

  11. The commander is under the same stress, but has already learned how to cope with by passing a similar career path as a former midshipman.

  12. As well as the grog (alcohol) given to the crew should work like a sedative.

  13. The ‘sub’ is put into brackets is because there are both subconscious and conscious aspects involved.

  14. A massive attack on the established hierarchy on a ship is called mutiny.

  15. Obviously this depends exclusively on the technical knowledge of the leader.

  16. At least if there should be no harm to the person that is containing anxieties.

  17. The focus here is not his suicide but his behavior on the ship before. Therefore the scapegoat function is over with the death of Hollom.

  18. In this paper, the terms intervention science and group dynamics are used synonymously.

  19. For the purpose of this paper the explanation given is kept as short as possible but detailed enough to provide the reader with data to understand the line of argumentation.

  20. At least is this the perspective of intervention science.

  21. In that case it would immediately turn into transcendent knowledge.

  22. It would be over the limits of this paper to go into that point in detail. Interested readers see for example Levine 2010, pp. 225–248.

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Schuster, R. On teaching leadership intervention science in action theoretical background and design of a lecture on leadership. Gruppendyn Organisationsberat 46, 213–235 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11612-015-0273-7

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