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Marty Linsky

Marty Linsky

Co-founder of the leadership-focused consulting firm, Cambridge Leadership Associates, Marty Linsky teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School, co-authors the advice column, Leadership House Call and blogs at Linsky on Leadership .

What's the Purpose?

Now that a tentative agreement has been reached, all that rhetoric, threats and counter-threats, looks like so much posturing, not atypical in heated, public, union-management negotiations.

Separating the posturing from the reality is difficult, but from a leadership perspective, the issue is always purpose. In this case, was keeping the Boston Globe alive the highest value for either side?

For the past month, both union and management were being driven mostly by the desire to satisfy the wants of their own key constituents: in the case of the Times, their shareholders, Wall Street and creditors; for the unions, their more militant, active and probably pension-vested members.

What might it have looked like if they really had the courage and commitment to put the longer-term, deeper purpose of keeping the newspaper alive ahead of the shorter term interests of their constituencies? What would leadership have looked like?

Here are some actions that would demonstrated leadership and not just constituency-pandering: (1) they would not have gone public; (2) they would have engaged a much wider group of stakeholders in the negotiations, (3) they would have mutually explored creative next practices rather than zero-sum threats (see the UAW's role in the Chrysler bailout), and (4) in private and in whatever public statements they did make, they would have empathized with rather than demonized the other side. Those leadership behaviors would be a beginning.

Their failure to take them is evidence that they really do not care as much about the Globe as they do about their own short-term priorities. In that sense they are no different than the folks running the State of Israel or those in charge in the Palestinian Authority. Neither side has done the hard work, the leadership work, of preparing their own people for the disappointment of not being able to fulfill their unrealistic dreams and fantasies.

Leadership in the union or management would be about having the courage to skillfully disappoint their own people on behalf of the more noble purpose of ensuring the long term survival of that crucial civic institution known as the Boston Globe.

By Marty Linsky

 |  May 6, 2009; 10:19 AM ET
Category:  Managing Crises Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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