These interviews took place on October 13 and 14, 2017, at the annual meeting of the International Leadership Association in Brussels, Belgium.Learn more about Robert Lord
Scarpino: Alright, so the recorder is live. As I said when the recorder was off, I’m going to take a couple of minutes to read a statement so you know what I’m saying about you. Today is Friday, October 13, 2017. My name is Philip Scarpino, Professor of History at Indiana University/Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI); and Director of Oral History for the Tobias Center for Leadership Excellence, also at IUPUI. I’m interviewing Dr. Robert Lord at the SQUARE Brussels Meeting Centre, Brussels, Belgium, which is the headquarters for the annual meeting of the International Leadership Association. This interview is a joint venture undertaken by the Tobias Center and the International Leadership Association. We will include a more detailed biographical summary with the transcript of this interview, but for now I’ll provide an abbreviated overview of Dr. Lord’s distinguished career. He earned his PhD in Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in 1975, writing a dissertation titled, Group Performance as a Function of Leadership Behavior and Task Structure. Dr. Lord was employed by the University of Akron from 1974-2012, rising through the academic ranks from Assistant to Associate to Full Professor, holding the rank of Distinguished Professor from 2004-2012. Dr. Lord played a key role in developing the University of Akron’s graduate industrial/organizational psychology program ranked in the top 10 in the United States in 2009 by U.S. News & World Report. In 2013, Dr. Lord joined the faculty of Durham University in the United Kingdom where he is employed as Professor of Management, Durham Business School, and Director, International Center for Leadership and Followership. Dr. Lord’s colleagues who helped me understand his career described him as a “thought leader,” a brilliant and productive scholar who combines wide-ranging interests with the ability to stay grounded and focused on research problems. They also described him as student oriented and a gifted and generous mentor. They really like you, by the way, you have some real fans. Robert Lord has an amazingly productive career as a published scholar, including three co-authored or co-edited books and about 144 refereed journal articles or book chapters published between 1976 and 2017. About 59 of his articles and chapters are first-author publications. His Google Scholar Citation Index shows 21,626 lifetime citations with just over 9,800 since 2012. His most cited publication with 1,862 citations is “Leadership and Information Processing: Linking Perceptions and Performance,” co-authored in 2002 with Karen Maher, who earned her PhD under his direction in 1991. He has played a major role in training and mentoring the next generation of scholars in his areas of expertise, including leadership, having served as Major Advisor for 40 dissertation students and as a committee member for an additional 49 dissertations. Dr. Lord has earned numerous awards and recognitions, including but not limited to, Best Paper of the Year Award by Leadership Quarterly for 2015; and, Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology for 2012. The Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award is a national award intended to recognize a scholar who has made the most distinguished empirical and/or theoretical scientific contributions to the field of industrial and organizational psychology. The recognition that brings us here today is the International Leadership Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. I want to ask your permission to do the following: To record this interview, to transcribe the interview, to deposit the recording and the transcription in the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives where they may be used by patrons, including posting all or part of the recording and the transcription to the website of the IUPUI Special Collections and Archives, and also to deposit the recording and transcription with the International Leadership Association and the Tobias Center where they may be used by patrons with the understanding that all or part may be posted to these organizations’ websites. Can I have your permission to do those things?
Lord: Sure. That’s fine with me.
Scarpino: The big thing is to understand that this is not anonymous, that you name is going to be associated with this.
Lord: Yeah, sure, absolutely.
Scarpino: Again, as I mentioned when the recorder was off, I’m going to start by explaining, for the sake of anyone using this interview, that I’m going to start by asking you some big-picture questions in order to get the conversation going. After that, I’m going to ask you a few questions about your childhood to get some demographic information in the record. I’ll follow those questions by asking you about your youth and young adulthood, education, aimed at providing insight into the big picture question: Who are you? Who is Robert Lord? When we’re done with the questions about your youth and adulthood, or young adulthood, we are going to work our way more or less chronologically through your career, with plenty of discussion about leadership. That’s where we’re going.
Scarpino: First question, just to throw it out on the table: What provided the interest in studying leaders and leadership? Where did that come from?
Lord: That’s a really good question. I think probably around 1972 or something like that when I was in graduate school, I took a course in small group behavior. Part of what we examined there was leadership, and it kind of grew out of that. I started looking at leadership functions. That’s sort of more like what is it that people do to make groups effective. It was kind of a shared leadership approach so that we would code leadership functions from all members of small groups. So that’s really more like group psychology and trying to understand task performance. It comes really from, I guess, conceptually from work done by Bales and coding interactions. In the 1950s, he developed an interaction coding system. It dealt more with, what I’d call, surface structures or kinds of statements, and functional behaviors dealt more with what the behaviors were attempting to accomplish in terms of moving groups towards their goals and managing social processes. That was my focus through my dissertation. Leadership was an outcome, as well as group performance being an outcome that we tried to explain.
Scarpino: Who taught that class that lit the fire?
Lord: Well, I think it was more like a seminar. There were several faculty that were in the class. My memory is a little hazy, but I think for sure I know Joel Goldstein was there; and I think Hans Pennings; and might have been Terry Gleason was there as well, but I don’t know. Carnegie Mellon was kind of an interesting place because they didn’t really treat graduate students all that much different than faculty. Once you were there, you were a colleague.
Scarpino: If you were in a seminar with three distinguished faculty members, that’s pretty good.
Scarpino: You mentioned coding functions. What kinds of functions, and could you brief explain for people who are not in your discipline what you’re doing and what you’re coding?
Lord: Sure. To be honest, I don’t remember all the categories. I’d have to look at it.
Scarpino: Just a few examples.
Lord: One would be problem definition. For there, we found kind of an interesting thing. You would expect people to start out defining problems the first thing in groups, and some did. But sometimes you would get a lot of those comments in the middle or near the end, and they’d be symptomatic of poor performance. I think that’s an important point because when you code behaviors and try and use them to predict outcomes, usually you just count the behaviors and assume the more the better and sometimes the more the worse.
Scarpino: Right. But in this case, timing of the behavior was important, not just whether or not they did it.
Lord: Yes. I guess I wasn’t that sophisticated. I just counted and did regressions to predict dependent variables. Other behaviors might be asking for information or supporting people, sort of communication behaviors, things like that. One of the things that we should have put in there, but we didn’t, was setting goals and getting feedback on goal attainment.
Scarpino: I think we all go back and look at our first research project and wish we could do it over. (Laughing)
Lord: Well yeah, sure, because it was the early 1970s. About the same time, a little bit earlier, Ed Locke was doing stuff on goal-setting, but it wasn’t as widely recognized as it is now.
Scarpino: When you’re talking about coding and the time period that you were involved in this, that’s with punch cards and a mainframe computer?
Lord: Well, we had a form and we would check behaviors in certain categories as we watched the group, and we would videotape it and then go back and look at any problems. But it was not really all that sophisticated. Later on, we got really tricky after I went to the University of Akron, and we’d do split screens. So, we would have one of the group and one of what they were doing, but that’s as sophisticated as we got. Nowadays, you do it a whole lot differently.
Scarpino: So you mentioned Bales. Could you give a full name on him?
Lord: I think it’s Robert Bales. I think he was a professor at Harvard.
Scarpino: Okay. You spent much of your adult life conducting research on leaders and leadership, writing and publishing on these topics, and teaching classes, that’s listed on your CV. In order to provide a bit of a window into your thinking, how do you define leadership? How do we know it when we see it?
Lord: A lot of people have trouble with that. I don’t. I just think of it as a perceptual process that results in increased influence for the person being perceived and moves a group towards its common goals.
Scarpino: In 2012, I had the opportunity to interview Edgar Schein, who was also a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award. He is quoted in numerous places as saying, “The only real thing of importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture.” By culture he meant organizational culture. If I were to give you his statement based on all of your experience studying organizations and leadership, and if I were to say, “The only thing of real importance that leaders do is. . . . .”, how would you fill in the blank? What do leaders do that matters?
Lord: You can answer that question at lots of levels, okay?
Scarpino: Let’s go from the simple to the complex.
Lord: Okay, let’s start off where we were. Schein has a good point, and I would extend it to say that one of the things that leaders do is they create structures. They create social structures. Culture can be one of them. That’s an aggregate structure. They may also activate identities and followers. That’s more of an individual level structure. But they create or activate structure that then have effects in structuring group behavior or organizational behavior. Just to show you that I’m a fan of Schein, in 2008 and 2009 I was working with Sean Hannah and a number of other psychologists. He was at West Point at a center for developing the behavioral ethics of the military. General Petraeus, who is here this time, asked us to survey the troops in Iraq, which we did. It took a while, and I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of it. One of the things that we looked at as a dependent variable was abusive behavior of noncombatants. What we essentially found was that leaders created ethical cultures. Okay? That’s that word again. And cultures affected abusive behavior. In a sense, it’s just supporting Schein. We looked at this at multiple levels; a company level, a platoon level, and a squad level. We looked at leadership at all three of those levels and culture at all three of those levels. This article is published in the Academy of Management Journal in 2012. What we found is that ethical leadership behavior cascades down levels, and it has a horizontal effect on culture, but culture was the big mediator in terms of affecting abusive behavior as an outcome. Schein is right in the sense that that’s one thing that leaders do, but that’s at one level. They do the same thing in terms of group identities, creating a group identity. They do the same thing in terms of individual identities. We wouldn’t call it culture. It’s another kind of structure. I would broaden his statement and say that what leaders often do is they create structures. Those structures have an effect. In a study I did with Dave Day who I think you have probably talked to. . .
Scarpino: . . . Yes, I did talk to him.
Lord: . . . we sort of discovered that leadership effects lag the appointment of a leader. At top levels, it may lag two or three years. Part of the reason for that is that it takes time to create structures and create strategies, and then those things have effects that are independent of leaders.
Scarpino: I’m going to follow up on Iraq, and then I’m going to follow up on some of the other things that you said. I assume that you did these studies of company, platoon, and squad in the United States.
Lord: No, no.
Scarpino: You went to Iraq?
Lord: No, no. We didn’t go to Iraq. We developed the instruments, and the Army chaplains collected the data for us.
Scarpino: By abusive behavior, you mean of civilians?
Lord: Of noncombatants. It could be civilians. It could be people that were detained for one reason or another.
Scarpino: You talked about leaders creating social structures and activating identity, group and individual identity. Do effective leaders understand that they are doing those things, or does it just happen? You see it because you’re coding it, right?
Lord: Yeah, that’s a good question. First of all, they may not understand it because some structures just emerge. In leadership, you have the interplay of top-down effects and bottom-up effects. In typical person-focused leadership, we tend to think that the leader has these qualities, and they make good decisions, and they percolate down, as that example with ethical military leadership illustrates. But leaders also create climates or a sense of empowerment that allows people to interact in certain ways, and their interactions create structures. So you have bottom-up structures that develop in ways that are not necessarily understood or anticipated. Complexity theory is a theory that deals with how social processes operate that way. You will see occasionally, like in the program, I forget who, but somebody has an article of like what can we learn from ants and fish. Well, ants develop bottom-up sort of social structures and very complicated structures. Fish do too. Every time you see a structure, it doesn’t mean that you have a central leader directing it.
Scarpino: Does that make any difference when one of the variables is the kind of organization -- military being fairly rigid, hierarchical; other organizations, say a not-for-profit, being completely different in terms of the bottom-up and top-down?
Lord: Sure, but you also have to think of – the military has a very clear structure. It has clear goals and clear ethical standards. But if you think of what happens in actual combat situations – it’s chaos. And so there they give leaders a lot of discretion to utilize the resources of their platoon or company, and to make their own decisions. As long as it’s consistent with what they call “command intent,” it’s okay.
Scarpino: When you talk about creating social structures, activating identities, group and individual identity, how would that influence leadership education? Or how do those things influence the way you teach leadership?
Lord: Well, I try and teach people about the processes. When I teach leadership, I try and get away from entity viewpoints; leaders have certain traits that allow them to be effective and talk in terms of processes and what is going on in terms of perceptual processes, information processes, social processes, and then also structural things that affect outcomes. The other area that I study a lot is motivation. You can also think of leaders affecting the suffering of the processes in followers. That has a really important effect.
Scarpino: When you talk about motivation, you are talking about the ability of a leader to motivate followers, or the leader’s motivation?
Lord: No, the ability to motivate followers in certain ways. We’ve known for a long time that in the leadership field, there is a tendency to take common sense ideas about what leadership is and what leaders do and build theories around them, where a deeper understanding could use scientific-based constructs. That idea comes from a really interesting article, it’s a book chapter by a person named Calder, and it in a book edited by Barry Staw. An example of that is that if you think about motivation from a motivational process, we have a big difference in terms of whether you activate two kinds of systems. One is a promotion system, and one is a prevention system. A promotion system has to do with trying to achieve good outcomes, things that are attractive, operating in a world that’s relatively safe, and it’s really a left frontal hemisphere type of a system. A prevention system is avoiding harm, not making errors, and correcting errors when they occur. That’s a right hemisphere system, and it’s also a little bit more spatial. The left is more symbolic and linguistic. Leaders can activate those different kinds of motivational systems and, in the process, change the way followers go about doing what they’re motivated to do. You can approach the same goal, but the underlying way that you think about it could be quite different.
Scarpino: Do good leaders move from one of those scenarios to the other depending on the situation?
Lord: They probably do. Whether they know that they’re doing that and think of these kinds of systems, I don’t know, or whether just kind of build skills over time.
Scarpino: So, a new question: James MacGregor Burns published his seminal work called Leadership in 1978, just a few years after you earned your PhD. Did you know Burns, by the way?
Scarpino: He said the following on page 2 of that book: “There is, in short, no school of leadership intellectual or practical. Does it matter,” he asked, “that we lack standards for assessing past, present, and potential leaders?” The question that I want to ask you because you have been doing this for a long is: Do you agree or disagree with Burns’ statement that in the late 1970s, we lacked standards for assessing the past, present, and potential leaders?
Lord: That’s probably right.
Scarpino: Because you were certainly working in that area, and your field was working in that area. What would cause to think that he was right?
Lord: First of all, in some ways, it’s an oversimplification because you said standards; in what domain? Leadership in one domain is not the same as in another domain. I think leaders acquire what I call domain-specific skills. I have an article with Rosalie Hall in 2005 where we talk about that in depth. Rosalie Hall, just for the record, is my spouse, and we’ve been. . .
Scarpino: . . . I found that out after I emailed her. (Laughter) I didn’t know it at that time.
Lord: We’ve been doing stuff together since before we were married, since the early 1990s. In that particular article, we took the literature on skill development and tried to apply it to leadership. But what you see, even before that, is that when you ask people to define leadership, they’ll define it differently in different contexts. Our argument would be that the skills, as the literature on skill development shows, are domain-specific. If you’re a good pianist, that doesn’t mean you’re a good chef. If you’re a good astronaut, that doesn’t mean you could become the CEO of Eastern Airlines and do a good job. It also suggests that if you want to select good leaders, you have to take account of the domain.
Scarpino: By domain you mean context?
Lord: Yeah, the context, leaders in what area. This is something that has always kind of puzzled me. I’ll preface this by saying I come from an industrial organizational psychology program, and we teach industrial organizational psychology, at least at University of Akron broadly. If you were building a selection test for a particular area, you have to do a job analysis, a task analysis to see what the job requires, to see what the tasks are and what skills they require, and then you have to build a battery based on that particular situation. Well, we should be doing the same thing in leadership. If leadership is important enough that we pay leaders all this money, we ought to be willing to invest some money in analyzing the job and figuring out the skills required, but we don’t do that. Instead, we think of leadership not as a skill, but as a quality of the person and so we look for general traits that might predict leadership, and I think that’s a mistake. We ought to ask, “What do we want leaders to be effective at? What are the skills that they need to have in those situations?” and then select on that basis.
Scarpino: I’m going to come back to the literature in the field in a few minutes, but given all the social science literature that exists on leadership, do you find that to be a little bit surprising that much of this is still done by the sort of figurative seat of the pants?
Lord: It’s surprising and discouraging. I think this is a nice organization, but if you sort of thumb through the papers being presented, a lot of them are done by students or people early in their career. It says if they took what they were interested in, put the label of leadership with it, and then started looking at it. It’s common sense ideas about leadership. Of course, there is a basis for common sense ideas about leadership because we all interact with leaders and so we build some understanding of what is going on and some sense-making, but it’s not necessarily the best basis for building a scientific theory about what leadership is, how it has outcomes, and what leaders should be doing.
Scarpino: We’ll again in a few minutes talk more about your series of leadership, but you do talk about the process of leadership and the interplay between the leader and the, what we now call, the follower. When we look at that process, and you look at it from the point of view of somebody who is maybe not a social scientist and just wants to understand leadership, how does one blend science and common sense? Where does each of those fit into the understanding or the functioning of leadership?
Lord: Okay, a really good question. I think you have to separate a couple things. One is leadership is a perceptual process. It’s an interpersonal process where we see other people behave, and we try and form some assessment of the person. We do that using the linguistic structures and schemas that we have for making sense of other people. We may not always use leadership as a basis for understanding other people, but that’s another issue. There is a strong perceptual component, and it is understood in terms of social cognitive processes associated with perceptions, emotional processes, embodied processes. Then there is an effect of leaders on performance. There can be direct effects of leaders on performance, and some can be highly visible. I remember watching a football game when Mike Ditka was a football coach and somebody a made a mistake. He pulls them off the field, and he yells at them on the sidelines. You would say, “That’s leadership. You can see it. You can observe it.” But the kind of effects that we started talking about, like leadership occurring through structures and developing cultures, and those effects may be occurring a year, two years down the road. Well, it’s hard to understand causality in those terms, so people substitute perceptual processes. Jim Meindl, who is deceased but is also getting an award, Jim’s big contribution was to emphasize that process and argue that leadership is socially constructed, and that people have romantic ideas as to what leaders are, sort of like the John Wayne model of leadership. That might be a type of intuitive, common sense understanding that’s popular, but it misses the really important processes that produce excellent performance in a way that can be sustained on an individual level or on an organizational level.
Scarpino: As a social scientist, you do your research, but in any way you’re trying to influence the process of leadership, you’re constantly arm wrestling with cultural perceptions.
Scarpino: Yeah. How do you win?
Lord: Well, sometimes you don’t. And you have to be honest. It’s like I’m more of a social scientist and researcher than a practitioner, but of course I’ve been a department head so you’re in some ways a leader then. I’m the director of a leadership center, and that seems to be effective.
Scarpino: You teach MBA students, or. . .
Lord: Yeah, I do do that too. You have some effects, but I think they are indirect. I’m good at getting people to help me because there are so many areas that I need help in (laughter), and they’re willing to do it because they’re so much better than me at that. (Laughter)
Scarpino: You mean to help you with your research?
Lord: Yeah, or just anything. I’m not as organized as you might think, and it’s getting worse as I get older.
Scarpino: I let my head get out of these questions here.
Lord: Sure. That’s fine.
Scarpino: Since 1978 when Burns’ book came out, which I would say still remains the seminal work in the field. . .
Lord: . . . Yeah, I’d say that, yeah.
Scarpino: . . . A little bit like reading Scripture though because anything you want is in there. I mean, there’s so much packed in there. . .
Lord: . . . Yeah, absolutely.
Scarpino: Since 1978, especially in the past several decades, the schools and programs of leadership have absolutely proliferated, and so has the literature on leadership and leadership studies. The question that I have is: Given the proliferation of leadership studies and literature, have we in the present developed standards for assessing past, present, and potential leaders? In other words, have we developed the ability to do what Burns said we didn’t, couldn’t do in 1978?
Lord: Oh, well, sure. Some organizations have. The military does a really good job at that, and they have for a number of years of both assessing and training. Organizations do that. They have a lot of leadership development activities. First of all, to get back to the selection point that I talked about, there are two ways you can approach finding people that have the skills to do a job. One is you can select certain people that have those skills, and the other is you can train them. While selection may be a problem, there is a phenomenal industry on leadership training. The argument there is really that you can develop skills in people.
Scarpino: Does leadership training work? Can you really train somebody to be a leader? I think for a minute that – I’ll give you a chance to think. With all my heart, I could want to slam dunk a basketball, and I could never do it because I’m not tall enough, I don’t have the jumping ability. There is no one who could train me to do that. I could watch movies; I could fantasize; but I could never do it. Is there any element of leadership that is like that, or can we actually train people to be leaders? Are they born or made?
Lord: I think they’re, well, both is the obvious answer. There is a lot of literature on identical twins and evolutionary basis for leadership that suggests that there are some inherited characteristics that predispose you towards being successful leaders. Training is a funny term, and most people who have been in the field for a while look at it more as experience. Leadership training in the long run is often setting up a series of situations where people can gain experience as leaders. That’s why a lot of leadership training programs are multiweek programs. They might run one, or two, or three semesters. We’re getting studies that look at the time course or trajectory of learning leadership skills. The problem with that is that outcomes of training are often associated with the way people are perceived by others and sometimes self-perceptions. What you tend to see is that as somebody gets into a leadership training program, their leadership ratings go down. I think it’s like a shift in standards. And then they come up. But what is central to the process is that people seem to develop an identity of themselves as being a potential leader, and then around that identity, they organize various kinds of skills so that, as someone is experienced and sees himself as a leader, they can do many things automatically. In the article that I mentioned with Rosalie Hall, what we argue is that you go through novice to intermediate to expert stages in terms of developing skills. To just flush that out a bit, a novice might be concerned with surface structures in terms of behaving as a leader, so they’re very focused on what they’re doing and how that’s being evaluated by other people. But as they learn ways to behave, then they have more capacity that’s free to self-monitor, to see how other people are reacting, and to think what other people’s needs are. So they become less self-centered and more other-centered, and then as they become experts, they have more principled knowledge and they are able to think in terms of bigger systems. I was talking to a colonel in the military, and I’ve forgotten his name, but he was telling me that it really wasn’t until 15 or 20 years into his career as a military officer that he really understood how a battalion functioned.
Scarpino: The military is almost a case study of what you were just saying though.
Lord: Yeah. So, I mean, you need to be able to have a certain set of skills and be able to manage what you’re doing so that you can then focus on understanding the way other people are reacting to you, what their needs are, and how you can help them do what they need to do. Then you have to be able to understand how they do it within the particular system because sometimes it’s not the person; sometimes it’s the system that has to be changed to allow the person to do what they are capable of doing.
Scarpino: An organization that has a goal of developing effective leaders, do they need to self-consciously foster that kind of scenario that you just talked about: novice progressing on up the line to expert? Do they have to be aware of that process and nurture leader along that path, or does it just happen?
Lord: I don’t know. (Laughter) I think it would be helpful if they were aware of it. I think it probably happens, even though they aren’t. It’s also the case, I think, that early on, people learn to manage their image in organizations and the way they’re perceived by other people. That’s not necessarily what’s going to make groups effective or organizations effective. People have to get beyond that, and some people don’t. They’re just interested in managing their careers and moving up. And some people do; they’re really interested in making other people function better and making organizations work.
Scarpino: How should we go about assessing the effectiveness of leaders? How do we know if they are doing a good job?
Lord: First of all, it depends at the level that the leaders are at, whether at sort of entry-level or lower-level leadership where you are mainly responsible for maybe a work team, that assessment is going to have to occur at that work team level. At intermediate levels, you might be responsible for a much bigger work unit. Then you have your top management team and the way they perceive you, but also the effects of the structures that you develop. Sometimes those effects are lagged to where they occur after the leader is no longer there. On a national level, I think Trump is benefitting a lot from what Obama did, and it’s not going to be until a year or two years into his presidency that we are really going to see the Trump effect. That’s hard for people to recognize. It’s hard for people to assess. Again, it depends on where you are. If you’re talking about higher levels and presidents, it is a whole lot different than if you are talking about higher levels and religious leaders, or technology leaders, or something like, or business leaders.
Scarpino: Assessing effectiveness is situational. . .
Lord: . . . Absolutely.
Scarpino: . . . depending on what they person is doing? So a political leader at the national level, how do we measure success? I’m not asking you to go after Trump.
Lord: Sure, sure, yeah.
Scarpino: I just want to be more specific.
Lord: Well, that’s a really good question. Politics is partly about perceptions, and so the way they’re perceived is one measure of success. Then their ability to exercise influence is another measure of success, and their ability to get things done is a third one. See, I tend to think of – if you take the period, you’re probably old enough to remember it, when Kennedy was President. . .
Scarpino: . . . Oh yes.
Lord: . . . and the Lyndon Johnson was President, Johnson was so good at getting things to happen working through Congress. And then I think he had Hubert Humphrey in Congress at the time, who was very effective at getting things done. But something like the civil rights legislation and the Voting Rights Act – that didn’t happen like that (snaps fingers); that took months, and months, and months to get that through Congress. That’s an effect that a really long shadow in terms of how it changed things for the rest of the country and for just various ideas as to what society should be like and what opportunity should be like. That was effective leadership, but then the Vietnam War was probably not effective leadership. Let’s not deal with that one right now, but it’s just an example.
Scarpino: Yeah. No, I understand. I mentioned, and you are well aware of the fact that since 1978 there is a massive body of leadership-related scholarship, scholarship that has come from a number of disciplines. Some of the work is narrative and qualitative. MacGregor Burns falls into that category. Some of it is highly quantitative. I had an opportunity to interview Fred Feeler at one point where he was undertaking sort of pathbreaking research at the University of Illinois association with a group effective research laboratory. Your own work I guess I would put in the quantitative approach. The question I have is: Given all that huge body of literature, what does it all add up to? I’m not assuming that you have read everything in print, but you are widely read.
Lord: Yeah. I think what it adds up to is it means that there are some aspects of leadership that we have a pretty good grasp on and some aspects that we are still struggling to develop a good theory of. I can elaborate.
Scarpino: Yes. Let’s start with the aspects that you put in the category of good, that we know. . .
Lord: Well, I think we know a lot about leadership perceptions. We know about that because we can draw on lots and lots of non-leadership research that I’d put in the social cognitive category. We know how social perceptions work in general from work that social psychologists do, and we know how cognitive processes function. We know about embodied aspect of perception. For example, transformational leaders are thought to have visions and inspire people’s activities, but transformational leaders also convey positive emotions. So, if they smile and other people smile, in terms of facial mimicry, then that changes the moods of the people who are responding to that leader, and they will see them as being more transformational. Perceptions are both physical and cognitive reactions of people and making sense of others. We know a lot about the cognitions. We know a lot about the social dynamics and the embodied aspects. If we were to say: Can you train somebody to be perceived as a leader? Yeah, you could to that. I don’t think it’s just gestures or embodied processes the way Cuddy talks about it. But in terms of voice qualities, posture, confidence, the ability to be salient, we could train people to do that. Salience is an important part of perception, and I think Trump understands it, but Ronald Reagan certainly understood it too. When Reagan as president, before he would go do a talk, he would have his advance people go out and say, “Where are the cameras going to be? Where is my mark where I’m supposed to stand so I’m salient?” Salience has an effect on leadership perceptions. Causal attributions have an effect on leadership perceptions. But we know about that stuff from work done in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. How leaders affect performance is much more difficult because -- think of the issue. Perceptions, we’re always dealing with the person who is the perceiver, and sometimes perceptions of aggregates of people, like maybe a group. But performance, we could be dealing with things at the level of an event, at the level of a person, at the level of a group, small groups, or at the level of an organization, or even national economic markets and how they perform. That’s a much more difficult area, and as you move up from events to markets, then the timeframe of effects increases. If we are dealing with an event, like a hurricane, we might evaluate leadership in terms of what somebody does in a day, or a week, or something like that, or maybe a month. But when we’re talking about how you change markets, like the State of New York is trying to restructure the way the electric markets work, and that takes years. Understanding performance in that scope is much more complex because of the level factor and the time factor.
Scarpino: As a social scientist studying leadership, is it easier to measure perception than it is performance?
Lord: Sure, sure. There is an article that’s in American Psychologist by Kaiser, Hogan, and Craig in 2007, I believe. They make a really important point that performance and perceptions are different. Very often we will have perceptual measures of performance, but hard, objective measures of performance are kind of what we really want to get at. Those are hard to find in leadership studies.
Scarpino: Did you ever work in that area?
Lord: Yeah. I did studies of small group behavior, and we looked at how effective they were and various outcomes.
Scarpino: So, small group behavior is a relatively small universe over a relatively short amount of time?
Lord: Yeah, exactly.
Scarpino: When we started down this path, you mentioned a scholar named Cuddy. I just want to make sure that I got that right. Do you have a full name on Cuddy.
Lord: C-u-d-d-y. There is an article by Cuddy which – and there is a pretty famous TED Talk that she did where she talks about sort of faking it until you make it, basically, I think those are the terms she uses. She talks about body posture and stuff like that; behave as if you are a leader and you’ll become a leader. It doesn’t seem to replicate.
Scarpino: Does it work?
Lord: No, but I think it’s because it’s a focus on the surface structure, behavior. What would work is if you get people to believe that they can do something. (Someone enters room)
Scarpino: Let’s make sure we are live again here. Okay, we’re good.
Lord: We were talking about Cuddy’s stuff and dealing with surface structures like body postures, but what’s important is what people think they are. So, if you dealt with people’s beliefs that they can be a leader and acting in a way that reflects that and then having social support in terms of people acknowledging that, then you can get a leadership identity developing. I think that can change people.
Scarpino: Do you make a distinction between leaders and managers?
Lord: Oh yeah. I think you have to.
Scarpino: Okay. What is that distinction for you?
Lord: For me, it ties into the definition that we started out with, and that is that leadership is a social perception process that involves exercising influence. You have to be perceived as a leader. Lots of managers are doing things and implementing procedures, following routines, and they’re not trying to exercise leadership and they’re not perceived as being leaders, but they are still doing a good job as managers. I think there is a really good book by Katz and Kahn in 1966 that’s called The Social Psychology of Organizations, I believe. They talked about leadership as filling in between the structures, doing things that aren’t necessarily formally laid out. On a bigger scale, Tushman and Romanelli talk about what they call convergent and reorientation periods and sort of a punctuated equilibrium model of how things evolve. You have convergent periods where things function pretty consistently, and then you have reorientations when things change erratically. It is in those periods that leaders likely have the most influence.
Scarpino: Reorientation would be because of some trauma in the organization or a change in leadership, or. . .
Lord: . . . Or vision, or competitive response, or something like that, or change in the environment.
Scarpino: I’m interested in something that you said a while ago about the time lag that it takes for a leader to come into a situation and have an impact. Without saying what it is, in a relatively short amount of time, I’m going to be interviewing a man took over a very large corporation when it was in a state of crisis. When somebody comes into a situation like that, it’s usually with the expectation that they are going to have an impact right now, but what you’re saying is that it really takes a while for a person. How do organizations – you’ve done a lot of work with organizations – how do they reconcile what really seems like an expectation that conflicts with reality?
Lord: Well, there’s a perceptual aspect. If they come in and they’re perceived as a leader and perceived as creating change or stabilizing things, then in part that happens. But then almost always, people who come in want to change key personnel. That takes time. They want to develop policies that are different. That takes time. They want to have those policies result in structures that can implement what they’re doing. That takes time. For example, what I think is probably a leadership failure is, if you look at the Navy, we have had five or six accidents where ships have run into things. Why does that happen on a systemic basis? And why does it happen all of a sudden? They investigate it. They change leaders. But they have to change their policy and the training and figure out what’s causing this, and that’s going to take some time.
Scarpino: Again, in reference to what has become really a massive body of interdisciplinary scholarship on leadership, in your experience, do the scholars of leadership talk to each other across disciplinary boundaries? Does the psychologist talk to the sociologist, talk to the historian, talk to the management expert?
Lord: I don’t think there’s one answer to that question. Some do, some don’t.
Scarpino: I’ll be a little more specific because I was trying not to lead the witness. I’m an academic in a different field, and you’ve spent a long career as an academic. People tend to go into their own disciplinary silos and stay there. What I was really looking for: Is leadership one of those fields where people have managed to reach out across the boundaries of the silo, or do we function in these silos?
Lord: We surely have, and so it develops. There’s a renewed interest in evolutionary aspects of leadership. There has always been a social aspect. Take social psychology; is that psychology or is that sociology? There has always been a dual focus there. Currently, we’re working in the area of quantum physics and cognitions and how that affects things.
Scarpino: I’m really excited to talk to you about that later on. I can hardly contain myself.
Lord: It leads you to think in different ways, and so that changes what you do and how you look at the field.
Scarpino: Tell me what you mean by the evolutionary aspect of leadership.
Lord: There is a really nice article in 2015 by – I’m not sure I’ll get the name right – but it’s like S-p-a-s-i-k and colleagues. Their argument is that as time develops and societies change, there are certain structures that change, and the need for types of leadership changes. For example, if you have societies that are hunter-gatherers and you have a clan structure, what leadership is in that context is going to be quite different than what leadership is when you have an agrarian society and people can own land and you have more hierarchical leadership and property rights, and that’s associated with leadership. Then when you develop an Industrial revolution and you have corporate leadership, that’s still different. It’s not family leadership; it is corporate leadership and stockholders that you’re responsible for. In sort of a post-industrial society, where it is much more fluid and people can communicate better, there are still different kinds of leadership skills and structures that are required. So, as the environment changes, various kinds of structures develop. The argument, I think, would be that in a social sense, social structures can be selected much more quickly than genetic structures. But there’s still the same arguments that there’s variety and processes that work, and that particular situation will be retained, and that will lead to different kinds of outcomes.
Scarpino: Are you thinking in terms of kind of a natural selection process, social natural selection process in leadership, that some things work and if they work, they in effect reproduce themselves and multiply; and if they don’t, they die out?
Lord: Well, sure, yeah. I mean, you see that in some ways, and I think it gets speeded up when you have better communications and you can see what somebody does. One day, it’s on the news, or it’s on Twitter, or it’s on YouTube the next day so everybody can see it.
Scarpino: The question that was in the back of my mind as you were talking is: How does one function in this kind of evolutionary environment when the speed of change accelerates the way the world is that we live in now where things are changing -- social structures are changing so rapidly? What does that say about leaders and leadership?
Lord: That’s a really good question. I don’t think that the leadership field has an answer to that yet. Complexity theorists would argue that you need to develop what is called requisite complexity and sort of need to match the complexity of some sort of organizational system to the complexity of the environment in terms of change, and a lot of that matching has to do with how processes between units operate. Mary Uhl Bien is a big proponent of that approach. Relational aspects of leadership and what happens in between people, rather than what people do, or in between organizations, is a really important aspect to look at and to understand. What happens in local relations sort of cumulates as you move up in terms of bigger and bigger systems. And how does it cumulate? Does it change as it cumulates? Those are important questions. It’s what we call the difference between compositional aggregation, where things aggregate but they keep the same form, versus compilation aggregation and as you create an aggregate, it’s different. In many kinds of thought processes and social processes, when we move from micro to macro, the phenomena change in qualitative ways. So, you need to be able to understand and influence that.
Scarpino: I had planned to ask you about complexity theory later on when it fit, but because you mentioned it, and somebody is going to get to this point in the interview and most people aren’t going to know what you’re talking about, could you sort of briefly say what that’s and how you are applying it to your work?
Lord: Complexity theory deals with how dynamic systems that are complex operate. The key point is to realize that in complex systems when components interact, they create something different. You can’t disaggregate the system and look at this component, this component, and this component by themselves. You have to understand how they all function together. The way that they function together may be quite different. It may not even be something that can be disaggregated. Then you have to say, “Well, how can we study those kinds of systems?” A lot of the study is with simulations of how models of systems work, but it’s also how leaders can do things that change the way systems evolve. In the terms of complexity theorists, leaders can catalyze, but they can’t control the way processes emerge. We talked about sort of left versus right hemisphere processes and promotion versus prevention. If you’re a leader and you want systems to be creative but you don’t know what the creativity is, you can emphasize left hemisphere promotion kinds of processes and create a culture that would emphasize creativity and maybe tolerate some mistakes, as long as you learn from those mistakes. Systems under that kind of leadership would evolve differently than systems under a prevention kind of orientation. You would have perhaps more stability. The problem most organizations face is they have to do what they do effectively, okay? So that’s kind of prevention and efficiency oriented. But they also have to adapt and be ahead of the curve in terms of learning. That’s promotion oriented or what has been called exploration and exploitation; exploration being more promotion kinds of things. There is an interest in what’s called ambidextrous leadership, where kinds of leaders who can do both.
Scarpino: Yeah, that’s where I tried to go earlier. So, an effective organization would have some institutional awareness that both of those processes are in play, and an effective leader would as well. Complexity theory -- how does that relate to similar and to different from chaos theory, which also is factored into your work, as I recall?
Lord: Chaos theory deals with systems that don’t repeat themselves. In complexity theory, you have complex systems, but they’re stable for a while and ideally they repeat themselves with some consistency, but then they may move on to different states. I think there is quite a bit of difference.
Scarpino: I guess what I was asking you was: Are both of those theories in play when you talk about organizations?
Lord: Sure. I mean, you’ll see a lot of people who are complexity theorists that argue that organizations want to operate at the edge of chaos. I mean, they don’t want to be chaotic - there’s no predictability, there’s no potential for skills to develop, etc. - but if they’re close to it, they are thinking that they could be innovative, and then they will innovate better than somebody else and gain a competitive advantage. That’s a theory.
Scarpino: That’s an interesting way to look at it. So, the field of leadership studies – do you think it has contributed to a broader understanding of leadership that reaches and influences non-specialists; citizens and voters? Are people like that influenced by the field of leadership studies?
Lord: I don’t know. (Laughter) I mean, it’s a good question. How would I know that? I’m an academic. I teach a very small group of people, but it’s getting bigger.
Scarpino: Well, let me turn the question around then: Should they be? Should that field have an -- I don’t mean you go lecture on the street corner, but I mean. . .
Lord: Yes, they should. The problem is that it’s an industry and there is so much stuff out there. It’s like medicine in the sense of there is always products that are out there to try and help you get better or be well. People don’t understand the process, but they can go to a doctor and get some advice. There isn’t any doctor that we routinely go to in terms of understanding the leadership stuff. Everybody can walk through the airport and buy a book that’s out there at whatever bookstore is in your airport, and there is going to be a section where they have popular leadership books, whether it’s leadership according to Attila the Hun, or Elon Musk, or Steve Jobs, or what have you, and some of them are just baloney, and some of them might have some insightful things. How do people know? I mean, it’s like a marketplace, and it’s buyer beware. I think that people who get leadership training or follow the advice of people with a good history and a good reputation in the sciences probably get something worthwhile.
Scarpino: Do you consider yourself to be a leader?
Lord: Uh…not really.
Scarpino: I mean, you have been a leader.
Lord: Yeah, I have been, yeah, I’m in a leadership position, and what I do is effective. So, in that sense, I’m a leader and people perceive me as a leader. But do I consider myself to be a leader? No. I’m just working on studies and working with people, trying to solve particular problems, but I have a lot of – I consider myself to be more of a writer than a leader. Usually the first three or four hours I spend of every day is writing. I’m at a computer. But I have a job where I do a lot of leadership stuff, and it’s effective. A lot of it is just coping with problems. Some of the people will think it’s visionary, but it wasn’t; it was just happenstance, and it worked out well. I could give you an example of that if you want.
Scarpino: Please do, yes.
Lord: One of the things that people would sort of look at my career in the last few years and say, “Well, that’s visionary leadership.” Somebody just said that to me a day ago when we were talking about it – is that we have at Durham University developed a network of leadership scholars, of Implicit Leadership Theory scholars. We got a grant from the Leverhulme Trust, and so we’ve had meetings every year for four years now. It’s really an interesting group of people because it’s international, so it’s all over the world. People will look at it and say, “Oh, well, how did you create that?” Well, here’s the real – who is the guy who used to be on the radio that would say – Paul Harvey – “And now you know the rest of the story.” Did you ever listen to Paul Harvey?
Scarpino: I did, yes.
Lord: So, here is the rest of the story. Shortly after I went to Durham, I went to a conference in the U.S. My graduate student, who was a post-doc at Durham then, presented a paper that was a computer simulation model of social perceptions. Somebody else, a lady by the name of Stefanie Johnson, who was in Colorado, presented a paper at the same symposium. I did not organize the symposium, I was just sitting there in the audience. But since I know people, I was talking to them afterwards and I said, “You know, these two people would have benefitted from collaborating, and they could have done a better job if they worked together.” They both did an excellent job, but there was the potential for synergy that we were missing. So, people said, “Yeah, well, we should have meetings. We should do something more interactive.” So, I said “Yeah, that’s a good idea.” I went back to the hotel, and I was talking to my wife about it. You know, we were coming from the U.K. to the U.S., and the next morning we had jet lag. So, I’m up at 4:00 in the morning. Nothing is going on, and I’m thinking, “We should have a workshop where we bring all these people together.” I said to my wife, I said, “What do you think of this?” because she was up too. She said, “That’s a good idea.” And I said, “Well, I’m in the business school now, I’ll just email Birgit.” This was Birgit Schyns, who was still there. And I said. . .
Scarpino: . . . Who was instrumental in getting you to the U.K. Is that who you’re talking about?
Lord: Yeah, exactly. And I said, “And I’ll have Birgit ask the Dean if he would fund a workshop to bring these people together.” I emailed Birgit and I said, “Hey Birgit, can you do this? Tell him we need to know in 24 hours because we have another symposium, and we just need $30,000 for it.” So, the Dean wasn’t too happy, but he said okay. So, the same group then met two days later in a different symposium, and I said “Oh, yeah, well the Dean said he can support it, and we can sort of develop a meeting.” So, we talked about how we would do it. Then we did bring these people to Durham to have this workshop. Then that led into a grant proposal that a number of people worked on, and we got a grant. Then we’ve had three meetings from that, and that snowballed into where we then at the last meeting got associated with Army Research Institute. Then we did a proposal to continue this with the Army Research Institute at their invitation. So, I think it’s going to continue, but really it was an emergent process, there wasn’t a whole lot of vision involved. It was just looking at something that happened and saying, “You know, that could have been better if we’d have had a different structure,” and then being awake and so you had a chance to think about it, and having a Dean who would say okay, and a group of people who wanted to organize. So largely although I had the grant, it was just a whole bunch of really talented people who wrote the proposal. The same thing with the grant for the Army Research Institute. I couldn’t have done it by myself. I have great colleagues that I work with.
Scarpino: But don’t you think sometimes vision is just seeing that thing a little bit differently than someone else did and then persuading people to come along? And you’re really good at that, aren’t you?
Lord: Yeah, but here’s the thing: you don’t know where you’re going. The vision assumes. . .
Scarpino: . . . Well, that’s the secret, isn’t it?
Lord: Yeah. The vision assumes that when you get to someplace that you could see it, you know, like I can see that building out there and say, “Okay, I’m going to walk to that building.” But you could say, “You don’t know where you’re walking to,” and it’s something that the outcomes are different than if you hadn’t done what you’ve done, but you don’t know exactly what they’re going to be.
Scarpino: Your colleagues who I spoke to and who are incredibly fond of you said that one of your outstanding qualities is the ability to think big, to understand and articulate the big picture, but stay focused. Isn’t that sort of what vision is, is to see those points on the horizon and then have enough focus and initiative to walk in that direction and get other people to go with you?
Lord: Yeah, except you don’t see those points on the horizon. That’s the point that I’m trying to make. When we talk about quantum theory, we’ll talk a little bit more about that. They’re there; you don’t know they’re there, and so you find out about them by them by doing things. It’s the difference between exploration and exploitation. In exploration, you’re kind of doing things that allow you to find out what the potential in the environment is. March noted this. He’s got a great paper in 1991, so we’ve known about that since then.
Lord: I think his name is James March, but he’s at Stanford. He is a pretty famous organizational researcher.
Scarpino: I’m just trying to help the transcriber here/
Lord: Yeah, sure. Simon and March had a really famous book on organizations years ago. Maybe it was March and Simon.
Scarpino: One of the people that I talked about your career with is Rosanne Foti.
Lord: Yeah, sure.
Scarpino: Okay. I wasn’t exactly sure how to pronounce it, but I should have asked her when I talked to her. She suggested this question, and I’m going to give her the footnote here. She pointed out that a relatively recent focus of your research has been on self-identity and its relationship to leadership; leadership influences others’ identities, and others’ identities can shape the leadership interaction, and so on. So, here is the question: Can you reflect a little on your own leadership identity over the course of your career?
Lord: Oh, sure. I think it’s really helpful to think about this from a perspective that Matt Alverson mentioned at a conference I was at in May in a beautiful place, in Mykonos. He said that in their consulting work, they find a lot of people who are doing leadership activities, but they don’t see themselves as leaders until other people label them as such. I think that’s the case for me. I was department chair for five years at a university, and it was a period of change. We had had a head, and we moved to a chair. The head had been there probably twenty years. And so we sort of shifted the culture, and you just do what you think needs to be done. I didn’t really see myself as a leader. I’m aware of the fact that I’m being recorded, (laughter) so I’ll choose my words carefully. But the job had a lot of aspects that were annoying.
Scarpino: I was a department chair. I can appreciate the annoying parts of it.
Lord: The same thing now with this network. We have a center for leadership and followership. There is a lot of things that you do, that you create structures, and then you respond to things that maybe are dumped on you and you’ve got to deal with them, but you don’t see that as leadership. It’s just problem solving, but other people might see it as leadership. Then after a while, you sort of say, okay, yeah, it is because it’s creating a global perception that has impact. It’s an indirect structure. It’s the way things function and the way things are perceived by others, and that’s important.
Scarpino: Here is what I was wondering: The man who spent a long career dealing with perceptions – the perceptions that followers have of leaders, and the way that leaders shape the perceptions of the followers, and that whole process that we will talk more about later on – are you self-consciously aware of that when you’re in a leadership position? Are you practicing your own social science, or are you just doing it?
Lord: Mostly I’m doing it, but there are some things that you’re aware of too. For example, I’m pretty informal. Tomorrow you’ll see in a very different. . .
Scarpino: . . . I normally would. I put the tie on out of respect for you. (Laughter)
Lord: Well, tomorrow I’ll have a three-piece suit on. I thought about that consciously in my career because I want to work with students and other people in a way that makes them comfortable and minimizes the status differences. And some ways you do that as how you dress. It’s a way I’m comfortable in dressing anyway, but I also think about it. There’s two aspects to it. There is the aspect of the way you’re perceived and being aware of that, but it’s also the aspect of how someone else perceives you that affects the way that they interact with you. You want the interactions to be productive, and so you really have to behave in a way that people feel comfortable, and they’re not self-focused, they’re not focused on you, they’re focused on what you’re doing. Normally I’m focused on what we’re doing, not the way I’m being perceived.
Scarpino: For the small sample of your former students that I spoke to, if they’re representative, it works. One more general question, and then I’m going to narrow down here a bit. One of the things about leadership studies again is the explosion of books and articles in the field. Given that massive volume of literature that’s available, which four or five books or articles would you most recommend that someone read? If someone said to you “I want to get started” or “What do you recommend?”, what would you put on the list of must-reads?
Lord: The number one must-read is a textbook that’s coming out by Antonakis and Day. It is called The Nature of Leadership, third edition, and I think it’s out in the U.S. and it will be out. . .
Scarpino: . . . I think it is.
Lord: . . . but it’s not out in the U.K. until December, at least according to Amazon U.K.
Scarpino: That’s David Day?
Lord: David Day. I will say it is the best book in leadership. Anybody who is serious about leadership should read it cover to cover and then read it again. That would be my number one choice because it brings together a number of scholars, and they talk about areas that they’re expert in. I don’t have a chapter in the book. I had a chapter in the second edition, and they cut my chapter (laughter), and probably with good reason.
Scarpino: I did see an earlier version, and you were in there.
Lord: Yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: So, this is the third edition?
Lord: It’s the third edition. It’s an excellent book. So, that’s number one. If you want to understand leadership perceptions, I would start with Lord and Maher, which is a 1991 book. It’s been cited a lot. This was written – Karen Maher was a graduate student at the time, and she’s just a wonderful scholar and a good writer. She is since deceased. She had brain cancer and died, I think when she was 46. It’s a good book for someone to get an introduction to cognitive information processing…
Scarpino: And the title of the book is?
Lord: Leadership and Information Processing. The first half is probably better than the second half of the book. So that would be the second book. Honestly, I’ve read George MacGregor Burns’ book, and I didn’t get that much out of it (laughter). Sorry to say that. It wouldn’t be high on my list. It is a great book, but for someone who didn’t know a lot about leadership, it wouldn’t be my first choice. If I would pick a third book to read, it is a book by Henry Satp, S-a-t-p, (SIC – it is S-t-a-p-p) and it’s called Mind, Matter, and something else (SIC – the book title is Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics). Stapp is a Nobel Prize winning physicist, so he talks about reality, how reality occurs, and what quantum theory has to do with it. It just leads you to think in ways that people don’t normally think, but I think it’s helpful for leaders. So that would be number three. For number four, I’m going back to Dave Day again. If you want to understand leadership training, I would read Day, Halpin, and – I forgot his third author. They have like a 2009 book that deals with leadership development and training. It’s so good because it starts out with an adult development perspective. It just brings in a lot of literature. I guess I’m up to four?
Scarpino: That’s okay. Four is enough, if you want.
Scarpino: I almost always ask people this question, just to see what they think stands out about. . .
Lord: . . . Yeah. Well, I would pick something that – I also did a book on identity with Doug Brown, who is a wonderful scholar. It’s Lord and Brown, and it’s a 2004 book, but I think it is dated. If you were interested in identity, that might be one place to start. Then you would have to go to some of the more recent work that’s been published, and journal articles, and stuff like that. There’s also things like – if you were a leadership scholar and wanted to know how to do good leadership research, there’s a book that’s coming out by Schyns, Neves and Hall. It’s called The Handbook of Leadership Methodology (SIC – the book title is Handbook of Methods in Leadership Research). It deals with a lot of methodological questions that range from how you do experiments to how you measure variables to how you do data analysis and stuff like that. I’d pick that as number five.
Scarpino: Last question before I ask you the really simple stuff: Professionally, who do you look up to? Who inspires you, or who has inspired you professionally?
Lord: Well, early in my career, I would have to say Herb Simon, who was a great psychologist, mathematician, economist, you name it. He was the first psychologist to win a Nobel Prize. He’d walk to school, and he would eat lunch with students every day. If you talked to him, you were just talking to another person like you and I are talking, but he was amazingly productive. So that would be somebody. Golly. Some of my colleagues inspire me. Roseanne does; Dave Day does. They’re both better than I’m in terms of knowing the leadership. . .
Scarpino: (Laughing) I haven’t talked to Roseanne, but Dave Day said just the opposite, that you were better than he is. (Laughing)
Lord: No, no. Birgit Schyns is great. People have different skills. A person that I’m right next to office-wise now, Susanne Braun, she’s younger, but she is an exceptional scholar. She inspires me every time I have a meeting with her. She is just so much more on the ball than I’m. But in the leadership field, I think people who move the field forward. I think Jim Meindl did great stuff. I didn’t know him very well. I think I had sat next to him once having lunch at a conference, and that was the extent of my interaction. But I read his stuff, and that was really good. Bruce Avolio obviously has been really successful. Bruce was one of our students.
Lord: Yeah. Jerry Hunt, who has passed away. Jerry was a great organizer, and was a great person to help new colleagues along in their careers. He had an impact on me early on that I think I only appreciated later on in my life.
Scarpino: He was a colleague at. . .
Lord: . . . Jerry Hunt was in your state. He was at Carbondale. It’s Illinois, sorry, but it’s not too far away.
Scarpino: No, we are neighbors.
Lord: . . .for a while, and then he moved to Texas Tech. But he used to have these Carbondale Biannual Symposia on leadership in the 1970s. When we first presented our stuff on categorization theory, Roseanne Foti and I went down to one of those symposia. Bernie Bass I think at the time didn’t think – he was a commenter – and I think he just sort of said, “Well, okay.” But then later on, he said, “Yeah, that’s a pretty decent theory.” So, Jerry Hunt was a great person in the leadership field. He was a good scholar.
Scarpino: In the 1970s, if he was having these conferences every other year, then he was on the cutting edge of where the field was going.
Scarpino: It was a nascent field in those days.
Lord: Yeah. So, people looked up to him. It’s not a leadership person, but Jim Naylor was also somebody who had an impact on me early in my career.
Scarpino: Who was Jim Naylor?
Lord: Jim Naylor was at Purdue. He was department head there, and then he went to Ohio State and was department head there. He was a psychologist that founded Organizational Behavior and Human Performance as a journal, and then it became Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. So, instead of OBHP, it was OBHDP. He also developed this group called Society for Organizational Behavior, which was his sort of fifty top people in the field, and you would get together and have yearly meetings. That’s still in existence. I’ll tell you a story, and this is a funny story. The first stuff that we did on Implicit Leadership Theories, we sent to JAP, which is Journal of Applied Psychology, and got a desk rejection. It was like three or four sentences. The one that sticks in my mind is the comment, “This manuscript is a decrement to the leadership literature and should not be published anywhere.” (Laughter)
Scarpino: Well, I got tipped off to ask you questions along that line.
Lord: And so we sent it to OBHDP. Naylor liked it and published it. You know?
Scarpino: The piece that you initially got rejected, that was one of your early pieces on Implicit Leadership Theory.
Lord: Yeah, it was Rush, Thomas, and Lord, so it came out in 1977 in OBHDP, and people still cite it today. It has a few hundred citations, maybe more.
Scarpino: I’ve got it on my desktop.
Lord: But, it didn’t get a wildly enthusiastic reception from the Journal of Applied Psychology when we sent it there. So, Naylor was always looking for something new, something innovative, and I think he helped the field along.
Scarpino: He also rode the right horse on that one, didn’t he? I mean, the thing that got rejected is really – it wasn’t too long before it was at the forefront of the field. So, I’m going to ask you some really easy questions just to get the stuff in there.
Scarpino: When and where were you born?
Lord: I was born in Detroit, Michigan on February 16, 1946.
Scarpino: Where did you grow up?
Lord: The first part of my life, I was in Detroit, a suburb. Well, the outer part of the city. . .
Scarpino: . . . Which one?
Lord: . . . called Redford, until I was five, and then we moved out further to what was a more rural area called Farmington. Then it became Farmington Hills. I lived there until I went to college. It was a great place to grow up. It was a different area. It was in a transition from rural to urban, but when I was there, we were in a subdivision that started out and there were just a few houses. So, you might ride your bike a couple miles to have kids to play with, and then 10 years later there was a house on every lot. But we always had room to play baseball, or goof around and stuff like that. It was a nice place to be a kid.
Scarpino: Did you have any brothers and sisters?
Lord: I have three sisters.
Scarpino: Older or younger?
Lord: One older, two younger. My sister Barbara is four years older than me. I have a sister Beverly who is a year and a half younger, and then a sister Beth who is nine years younger.
Scarpino: Who were your parents?
Lord: My mom, her name was Delma Grace Dixon Lord. She grew up in Canada, in Walkerville. She came to the U.S. Her dad moved to the U.S. during the Depression for work, and then she met my dad on a double-date.
Scarpino: Those are always dangerous (laughing).
Lord: Yeah. They ended up on a double-date because he had a car, and her brother wanted to take somebody out and didn’t have a car. So, life has all these quirks that just change the way things happen. My dad’s name was George Theodore Lord. He grew up in Detroit. He worked in the auto industry all his life.
Scarpino: On a line?
Lord: He was an engineer in truck development, so he wasn’t an assembly person, but he sort of did testing of new trucks in applied situations, so he traveled a lot.
Scarpino: I’m going to try to ask you a question to get at your youth and the impact it had on the man that you became. Because of your field, this may be close enough for this to work, so we’ll see. This will either work or it won’t. In October 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing Manfred kets De Vries at the ILA in London. To get ready for that, I read an article that he published in 1994 called The Leadership Mystique. One thing that he said in that article that really jumped out at me, and I tried it on him and it worked. In that piece, he said “All of us possess some kind of inner theater and are strongly motivated by a specific inner script. Over time, through interactions with caretakes, teachers, and other influential people, this inner theater develops. Our internal theater or inner theater in which the patterns that underlie our character come into play influences our behavior throughout our lives and plays an essential role in the molding of leaders.” Using his term “inner theater,” can you tell me about your inner theater?
Lord: That’s a tough one. I’m really task-oriented.
Scarpino: When you look back on your youth or young adulthood, are there things about people you met, events that took place that inspired you or shaped you and stayed with you for the rest of your life?
Lord: Yeah, sure, two things. One, I like to play baseball. I sort of thought I would be a baseball player. (Laughter)
Scarpino: A lot of boys wanted to be baseball players. (Laughing)
Lord: Yeah, as I got into high school and stuff, I realized I wasn’t fast enough or strong enough. I was a kid who was big early on. I’m not that tall now, but I was this tall when I was twelve, so I was a big kid. It helps with athletics, but that wasn’t the best route for me. But I still enjoy baseball. In fact, I’m an Indians fan, and a very unhappy Indians fan at the moment.
Scarpino: Cleveland Indians.
Lord: Yeah, but they had a great season in lots of ways. But the other thing is, I was probably always kind of quantitative, but when I was a kid, you would get the box scores. So you tend to think in terms of batting averages, and who went 1 for 3, 2 for 4, how would their average change, etc. It’s a kind of a domain in which you can think about numbers and how they change, and how things evolve from day to day. So that’s probably good training for somebody who does scientific stuff.
Scarpino: I was thinking when you said baseball, that seems likes a social scientist’s perfect game.
Scarpino: How about your parents? What kind of impact, lasting impact, did they have on you?
Lord: This is in retrospect. I’d say two things. From my mom, I got the sense that she was always there to support me. You know, whatever we did, she would still love you. It wouldn’t necessarily be okay, but she’d be in your camp. From my dad, it was a willingness to sort of discuss issues and think about different points of view. He was always willing to, I won’t say argue, but go through issues where we had different perspectives. He was a truck engineer, so we’d talk about fuel economy and I’d say, “Well, small cars are better.” “No, in ton miles per gallon, you know, the bigger cars are better.” Well, who thinks in terms of ton miles per gallon when you’re thinking about the efficiency of an automobile? Only a truck engineer. You could have different perspectives, but he would listen and discuss things. That’s kind of what scientists do -- they should do anyway. I think I got those two things from my parents. And then a quirky thing, which I’m not sure whether it is just a figment of my imagination or not, but being in the U.K., people notice we have a strange accent.
Scarpino: That Americans have a strange accent?
Lord: Yeah, exactly. They’re always kind, and they say, “Are you Canadian?” rather than saying, “Are you American,” at the moment. I don’t know if that’s because I sound just a lit bit Canadian because my mom grew up in Canada, or whether they’re just trying to be nice to us, or whether they are just not sure. It’s a comment of the times and the way the U.S. is perceived.
Scarpino: Well, that’s something, isn’t it? I’ve spent a lot of time in New Castle at New Castle University working with colleagues. Where did you attend high school?
Lord: Farmington High School.
Scarpino: Were you a good student?
Lord: Oh yeah. I’m very much a product of good public education. The high schools were good. Like in seventh grade, they kind of started tracking you, sort of had accelerated classes. Now they would be like classes where people get college credit or something, but then it was just like honors classes or something like that.
Scarpino: While you were of high school age, were there any individuals, besides your parents, who had a significant influence on your life trajectory?
Lord: I’m sure there were. Probably the teacher that stands out most is a guy by the name of Lee Peele, P-e-e-l-e, who was an English teacher. We would read a lot of books, but then he would have us doing things like painting. We had a class where we did oil painting in English. We had to write poetry and stuff like that. It was fun. It was inventive and different.
Scarpino: Do you think that he nurtured the eclectic interest that has stayed with you for the rest of your life?
Lord: Just maybe to some extent.
Scarpino: You graduated from high school and went to the University of Michigan, earned a B.A. in economics in 1968. Why did you decide to major in economics? What was the attraction?
Lord: It’s a crazy thing. Neither of my parents went to college, so I had no idea what college was all about, but my sister went to the University of Michigan. It was pretty cool, so I thought I’d go there, and it was pretty cool, a great school. I started out at the time, I thought, “Well, I kind of like music.” I played the trumpet, but these kids who are music majors are just worlds ahead of me. It had a good music school, and I was actually in engineering. I wanted to be a civil engineer, and realized I don’t have the mind of an engineer. That’s no criticism; I’m just not as detail-oriented as engineers have to be. I’m the kind of person when I take math, I get a C in calculus because I would drop a sign. I mean, I understood what was going on; I just didn’t do the calculations right. Engineers can’t get away with that. So, I switched from engineering to arts and sciences. I liked economics, so I majored in economics and took a lot of psych classes. I thought well, “I’m not sure I want to be an economist, but I like psychology,” so I went to graduate school in psychology.
Scarpino: You were like a lot of undergraduates, just sort of looking and. . .
Lord: . . . Finding your way. I never had a class in economics in high school, although I’m sure we had one. But I will say one thing about the University of Michigan – the world was different then; state-supported education, and it had a tremendous impact on me. When I started out, tuition was $140 a semester. When I graduated, it was $210 a semester. I worked in summers in auto assembly plants where they were making Mustangs. In 1964 and 1965, that was a big deal.
Scarpino: I had a 1965 Mustang. Maybe you made it. (Laughing)
Lord: Could have! But you worked a lot of hours, and I’d take home $210 or $220 a week. Where nowadays could somebody get a job where they could work a week – it was a hard week – and pay their whole college tuition? It just doesn’t happen, and I think it’s such a short-sighted change in terms of what happens. Now students borrow a lot of money, they end up with a lot of debt, and they’re forced then to take jobs where they make more money. I won’t name names, but I’ve seen really good scholars take jobs because they had to pay off $100,000 worth of loans or something like that. It’s just a different world. The University of Michigan was a great place. You could get world class scholars in so many disciplines. It was just mind boggling. It was fun. It was great for somebody who was in their late teens or early twenties.
Scarpino: You graduated in 1968. When you, at least figuratively, had that diploma in your hand, what did you think the rest of your life was going to look like? Where did you think you were headed?
Lord: I knew where I was headed.
Lord: I’ll give you another event. Michigan has a union. It’s basically a building where there are a lot of activities, and they have a grill in the bottom of it. I had three apartment mates. We were sitting in the union, and Walter Cronkite came on the TV. He starts talking about the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and we all said, and I will just be brutally honest, we all said, “Oh, fuck, we’re all going to Vietnam!”
Scarpino: I think I probably said that myself. (Laughing)
Lord: Let’s see. One of my roommates was in Vietnam and was an engineer. He was dropped into Cambodia to build the roads back for the troops that were invading Cambodia, so that was his experience. Another one was enlisted. He liked language, so he had studied Russian and German. He went to the Army Security Agency, and he was supposed to go to Vietnam. He was home on leave before they sent him to Vietnam, and Russia invaded Czechoslovakia, so his orders got changed. He got sent to Germany to listen to the Russians. I went to graduate school and got drafted from graduate school. I was like the only American male in the group at Carnegie Mellon. The year that I went to graduate school, they were all Canadian males or American females. I got drafted and went in the service in March of my first year. . .
Scarpino: . . . 19?
Lord: . . . It would have been 1969. I was in the service until December 23, 1970, so 21 months. I got out to go back to school.
Scarpino: I saw that on you, and I was actually - before I talked to you about graduate school, I wanted to ask you about you were drafted.
Scarpino: Did you have a draft number?
Lord: A year before. Yeah, I was 325. I would have been great after the lottery, but I was already in the service.
Scarpino: You went in as an enlisted person?
Lord: Yeah, yeah. Well, I wasn’t enlisted. I was a draftee.
Scarpino: But, I mean, you had an enlisted rank. You were a private?
Lord: Yes, yeah. A private E1. Yeah.
Scarpino: Where were you stationed?
Lord: I was stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky for nine months, and then I was sent to Germany. Wars are kind of funny. When they’re building troops up, everybody goes to Vietnam. When they’re starting to bring the numbers down, then not so many people are being sent there. I was lucky that I went to graduate school because it reduced my chances of going to Vietnam, but then because I was in graduate school, when I got out of basic training, they made me a clerk. I was in Army intelligence. But then I wanted to do something in psychology, so I requested that I could be moved to one place, to like a military hospital. Instead, they put me in a stockade as a social worker. So, that was interesting because talking about organizational climate, it’s like when you go in and they open your office and then they lock the doors behind you, it was like, “This is weird!” I did that for six or seven months.
Scarpino: So you were basically serving as a social worker for incarcerated troops?
Scarpino: And where was this hospital?
Lord: This was Fort Knox.
Lord: And then I came down on a levy to go to Germany, to Shape, to be a liaison for a general. So I got there, and they said, “How well do you speak German?” I said, “Oh, not very well.” “How well do you speak French?” I said, “Oh, a little French,” and they said, “This isn’t going to work.” So, they made me company clerk, and I was a company clerk for a year, and then I got out of the service and went back to graduate school.
Scarpino: Did anything that you did in the service have an impact as you went forward with your career, as you thought about leadership or leaders of organizations, or dysfunctional members of organizations in prison?
Lord: Well, sure. It’s hard to say a specific example. Just being in Europe for a year, I mean, it broadens your perspective. I got to travel a fair amount and meet different people. I liked being in the service. I mean, I don’t like the war part, but you’re with a bunch of guys, and they were pretty decent guys, and you had a similar experience. The job wasn’t that hard as a company clerk if you’re just organized and careful. . .
Scarpino: . . . and you could type.
Lord: . . . And you could type, yeah. You had to be careful. I had a really good commanding officer who treated you respectfully and was a decent person. His name was Captain Johns (Spelling???). It was largely a positive experience for me in terms of the military. In terms of social processes, almost all of the people that I went through basic training with, before they were out of basic training, they had broken up with their girlfriends at home. You get the “Dear John” letters. It just happens. So, that had an impact too. In anything when you’re in a different situation, you grow and you learn and you develop, but I don’t know that there’s a particular leader or event or anything like that that had an impact.
Scarpino: When you got out of the service, you went back to Carnegie Mellon?
Scarpino: Why did you pick Carnegie Mellon in the first place?
Lord: (Laughing) I didn’t really have much choice. I applied to Michigan, Purdue, and Carnegie Mellon, and I got accepted in each school and got offered scholarships, but Carnegie Mellon would let me teach. I knew if I went to the other two schools, I’d get drafted, and I thought, “Well, if I go to Carnegie Mellon, will they draft a teacher?” - and the answer was yes. (Laughing) That didn’t help me either.
Scarpino: So you took the offer that was going to let you teach from the get-go so you wouldn’t get drafted?
Lord: Yeah, and I got drafted anyway. You can’t tell how things will work out. Then I went back to Carnegie Mellon because I could get out of the service three months early to go back to school. It was a great place, and I kind of liked it anyway.
Scarpino: As an undergraduate, you had already been taking psychology courses?
Lord: Oh, I had lots of psychology classes.
Scarpino: Your decision to specialize in psychology in graduate school was based upon the fact that you had these courses and liked the content. I was going to talk to you about how you got from economics to psychology, but – did you write a Master’s thesis?
Scarpino: What was that about?
Lord: Factors that predict who is likely to commit suicide or something like that.
Scarpino: So, it wasn’t much to do with leadership.
Lord: It didn’t have anything to do with leadership.
Scarpino: But then for your PhD, which you earned in 1975, you wrote a dissertation called Group Performance as a Function of Leadership Behavior and Task Structure. How did you get from factors that contributed to suicide to leadership?
Lord: Well, you asked me. I took a class in terms of small group behavior.
Scarpino: So you took that as a Master’s student?
Lord: Yeah. I mean, there, you’re a PhD student and you’ve got a Master’s, it’s just along the way. It’s just your first research project. It’s not a formal program and if you didn’t get it, it wouldn’t make any difference. But, I did, and you know. . .
Scarpino: . . . So you took a class and. . . And then I’ll be respectful of your time, but was your interest in leaders and leadership, or was it using leaders and leadership to build and test theories? Were you interested in building and testing theories or interested in leaders and leadership?
Lord: Probably neither.
Scarpino: That was a bad question. (Laughing)
Lord: No, no. It’s like, you look back at things, and that’s not the understanding that you had then. It’s like, I just wanted to get my dissertation done and get a job. I had a girlfriend who was an economist, and she got a job at Buffalo. I wanted to get a job someplace close to Buffalo. It wasn’t close enough. Things just didn’t work out. I think I probably was more interested in teaching when I first started, and then really realized, “Oh, geez. There’s this thing – research.” I mean, I had done research, but you’ve got to publish, and you’ve got to work with students and they have to be able to publish. I was successful at it. So, you kind of learn and change your identity as you went along. Some of it was social expectations of our department chair, who had high expectations. Some of it was, I was just really successful. I didn’t see anything unusual about it.
Scarpino: The success that you had researching and analyzing and writing that dissertation persuaded you that research was something that interested you and that you were good at and would like to maybe to devote a career to that, as opposed to teaching?
Lord: Well, I don’t think I was that farsighted, you know? I just did it. You were supposed to do it, and I did it, and I was reasonably successful at it. Then after the fifth or the eighth or the 10th publication, and then realize, “Okay, you know, I’m publishing in good journals, and my students that are working with me, we’re publishing in good journals.” It just kind of snowballs. That’s probably the best term for it.
Scarpino: Last question for this session. We’ll talk about scholarship tomorrow. Dissertations are supposed to add to knowledge. Keep in mind that people who listen to us are probably not going to be in your field. What was the contribution of your dissertation? What did you add to what we didn’t know?
Lord: Well, two things. It had two parts. One was a performance part, and one was a social perception part. The performance part dealt with how the functional behaviors required for effective performance vary depending on the structure and the type of task that people were doing. It really dealt with contingency views of functional leadership behavior and how that integrated with task typologies. I think that moved the field forward. Specifically, there was a paper that was published on unstructured tasks. That seems like a no-brainer, but it’s nice to show this empirically, that on unstructured tasks you need behaviors that structure them for people to be successful. You’re nodding your head. It seems like a no-brainer.
Scarpino: It seems like a no-brainer after you do all the work.
Lord: Yeah. Exactly. You develop a system. You can record these behaviors. You can see what’s correlated with performance and how it varies across time. It’s empirical, but it makes sense, at least to me now. The other part was a little bit more interesting because it dealt with who is perceived as a leader and the bases of power that are associated with leadership. I tried to manipulate reward, power, expertise, and legitimate power. They all had effects on leadership and ad hoc, which are newly formed small groups. We developed a measure of leadership perceptions. This is kind of crazy, but I’ll be honest. What happens with a dissertation, you just make up stuff. We developed. . .
Scarpino: . . . You just don’t tell anybody. (Laughing)
Lord: . . .these items, like this person was perceived to contribute to the task, and I would like them to be a leader again on a next group, and stuff like that. These items then were combined into a scale. That was a dependent variable that was predicted by behaviors and these manipulations. That got published in Administrative Science Quarterly, which was a good journal. It’s the first place I sent it, so I thought, “Oh, this isn’t so bad.” Except for the JAP experience, most of the stuff that I sent got published where I sent it. So that was the perceptual part.
Scarpino: Is that where the roots of Implicit Leadership Theory are?
Lord: In kind of an odd way. No, the roots of Implicit Leadership Theory are really clear to me. It’s like I got this issue of OBHDP and it had an article by Barry Staw in it in 1975. I remember getting the journal because you get journals in the mail. . .
Scarpino: . . .Right. They had wrappers around them.
Lord: . . . lying on the carpet, reading this. I had this orange shag carpet in my apartment. It was really ugly. So, I remember reading this, thinking, “Damn! This is really good,” because what Staw showed is that if you ask people to describe the performance and the processes in their group on a number of dimensions, and you randomly assign them to conditions where they’re told their group performed well or they performed poorly, that they describe the processes different. So, it’s kind of a backwards-looking approach. Staw’s issue was: What do correlations between behavior and performance mean if performance is affecting the way behavior is being described? That was the origin of what became called the performance cue effect where we looked at it. . .
Scarpino: . . . You did a meta-analysis of that later on, right?
Lord: No, no, it was a different meta-analysis. But I did do an article that dealt with that issue in terms of aggregating stuff, but I don’t think it was a meta-analysis. So, the leadership coding stuff, it’s like I knew how difficult it was to code behaviors and remember them because I had spent hours and hours doing this and training people to be able to code this system that I developed. You could spend two hours watching a group and coding the behaviors, and you come out someone say, “Well, what was the frequency of this behavior?” and you would say, “I have no idea. You know, I just did, but I don’t have any aggregate view of it.” So, I didn’t have much faith that people could describe and give accurate frequency ratings of the leadership behaviors that they had been exposed to. Then there was another article published in 1975 that basically said: you can get the factor structure of leadership measures when people – this is Eden and Leviatan in 1975, and I think this one is in the Journal of Applied Psychology – but you can get the same factor structure, which we use as a measure of how good a measure is, when people were describing a fictitious leader as when they were describing a real leader. So that suggests that the factor structure comes from the cognitive schema that people have for making sense of everyday leadership, not from their recollections of what actual behaviors they observed. So, it’s not a trait aspect of the leader so much as a perceptual structure that perceivers have to make sense of things. The Staw article, the Eden and Leviatan article, and my experience in coding behaviors, all three of them sort of came together. I said, “This is really interesting, and you know, this behavioral rating may not be all it’s cracked up to be.”
Scarpino: That looks like this is a good place to stop.
Scarpino: Because we went longer…(RECORDER TURNS OFF)
Scarpino: The main recorder is on. Today is Saturday, October 14. I am doing a second recording session with Robert Lord who is the recipient of an International Leadership Association Lifetime Achievement Award. Thank you for agreeing to sit with me for a second time.
Lord: My pleasure.
Scarpino: I want to ask your permission to record this interview, to have the interview transcribed, to have the audio and transcription deposited with the IUPUI Library Special Collections, the International Leadership Association, and the Tobias Center, where they will be used by patrons. That may include posting some or all of this to the internet.
Lord: Yeah, sure, that’s fine.
Scarpino: Okay. All right. Yesterday we actually had a wide range of discussion, but where we left off, you were in your PhD program. I actually owe this question that I’m going to start with to Roseanne Foti. She told me that when she – she was one of your students, number two, I think, right? Dissertations?
Lord: Oh. It could be. Yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: She didn’t know that but I -- She told that me that she graduates and gets her PhD, she goes to Virginia Tech where she is still employed. She taught a course – I think it was The History and Systems of Psychology – and one of the assignments was that the students in her class had to do kind of an academic genealogy of a professor. One of her students picked her, or she made him pick her, or something. Anyhow, the student is working on her, and she listed you as her mentor. So, he then, the student, mailed you a form which you filled out and kindly sent back. On that form, you listed Herbert Simon at Carnegie Mellon as having had a significant impact on you.
Lord: Probably. Yeah, sure.
Scarpino: Because there will be people listening to this who don’t know who Herbert Simon was, he co-won with Allan Newell, the Turing Award in 1975, which is the highest distinction in computer science. He followed that with a Nobel Prize in economics and he had a tremendously eclectic interest. Together with his wife, he co-published in public administration and cognitive psychology. Here is my question: Did you take a class from him while you were there?
Lord: Yeah, yeah, I did.
Scarpino: What was he like?
Lord: Well, he was into the stuff he was teaching in great detail. The basic approach that they took in terms of cognitions was to look at human processes and build fine-grain models of what people were doing and what the underlying processes were. So, you have to get at it in great detail. To be honest, from a student’s perspective just beginning, it was kind of boring, but it’s a good way to do research. As I got further on in my career, I understood better the value of doing that kind of stuff and the broad perspective that he had. As a person, he was respectful, you could talk to him, he interacted with faculty and students the same way. In that sense, he was very admirable.
Scarpino: You, yourself, have amazingly broad interests. Some of the folks that I talked to to learn about our career said one of the things that you are frequently asked to do is to write and introduction to something because you really have the ability to see the big picture and pull things together. Did he influence you in that way?
Scarpino: He was a lot like that.
Lord: Yeah. I don’t think I had any attempt to emulate him or anything like that. It was just that you appreciated the fact that he could do that, he could think broadly and he knew what was going on. Like I said, I was a baseball fan. So, one time I cut class to go to the World Series in 1968. My team lost 10-1, and it rained all of the time, so that was my punishment. But when I got back and went to class, the first thing he said was, “Did you enjoy the World Series?” (laughter) I thought, “Oh. . .
Scarpino: . . . He knew.
Lord: He knew, yes. He knew what was going on. It was kind of eye-opening.
Scarpino: Someone else who was at Carnegie Mellon when you were there, Allan Newell?
Scarpino: Did you work with him at all?
Lord: No, I didn’t really work with him. I’m not a – how should I put it? I’m not a computer scientist in any stretch of the imagination
Scarpino: Which he was.
Lord: Yeah. I mean, I knew who he was. He was at symposium. He has a book, which I think is a really great book on – I think it is called something like A Unified Theory of Cognitions, but I could have the title wrong, and it’s like a 1979 book. I read it multiple times. It has influenced me. He’s a really good thinker. What I think is kind of the most interesting idea in there is speed accuracy tradeoffs, the notion that if you’re really an expert in something – I won’t say speed accuracy. Speed computation tradeoffs. If you’re an expert in something and you have a knowledge base, then you can do the task with much less computational stress. You can do it faster with less thought. The way Simon and Newell can take a knowledge of how people doing things, and the detailed knowledge of how to represent that, and show how it all fits together in both a software and also in the human brain is a really important contribution.
Scarpino: Did you come away from graduate school with that knowledge, or is this something you picked up later reading and thinking?
Lord: No, no, no. Yeah, I read it afterwards. The book that I am talking about wasn’t even written when I was in graduate school.
Scarpino: Did you have any other important mentors when you were in graduate school?
Lord: A guy by the name of Terry Gleason who taught a lot of quantitative stuff, and I played basketball with him. I don’t play basketball very well. He was one. Hans Pennings was there. Carnegie Mellon, it’s like they have a lot of great faculty and it’s more like a club than a hierarchy. So you’re in the club and you interact with everybody.
Scarpino: So, they treated you as something more than just a lowly graduate student.
Lord: Yeah, absolutely. Like a typical Friday, you’d have a faculty meeting, colloquial speaker. Graduate students went to the faculty meetings, colloquium speaker, reception, and then they would go out to dinner. Then there would be a party, and everybody would go to it. It was kind of like your social life, a big family, and people had a common purpose which was learning and contributing to science. I think it’s a great culture to be part of and to contribute to.
Scarpino: You sort of modeled that in your own career.
Lord: Yeah, I’m not very original. (Laughter)
Scarpino: No, that’s not what I meant. (Laughing) I was thinking more of influence rather than lack of originality. Your former students that I spoke to describe you pretty much the same way.
Lord: Yeah. If it works, why do something different?
Scarpino: You earned your PhD. You accepted a position as an assistant professor actually in 1974; I think it was right before your completed your degree at the University of Akron, and you stayed there until 2012. Why the University of Akron? Why did you decide to go there?
Lord: Well, I had a girlfriend who I cared very much about. She got a job at Buffalo, and it was close. I could have gone places closer, but it was close enough. It seemed like a program that was developing. My advisor told me, “It’s the best one of the options you have,” and so I went and stayed there for a variety reasons for a long time.
Scarpino: You built your career there. As you look back on all those years you spent at Akron, professionally what are you proudest of?
Lord: Oh, that’s easy. I am proudest of the students that I had and how well they have done. You weren’t at the session where I got an award, but I just basically wrote a list of students and thanked them. If we want to put something on the record, I can do the same thing. I started out working with Mike Rush, Jim Phillips, and Roseanne Foti; Bruce Avolio was there, he was a good friend; Dave Day and Paul Hanges as students; Karen Maher, who I wrote a book with. Karen passed away with brain cancer. My mom was Canadian, so for some reason I had a whole string of really great Canadian students: Doug Brown; Laura Neido (Spelling???); Russ Johnson; Chris Salenta (Spelling???); I put Daisy Chang in with Russ because they are a couple; Ernest Hoffman; Jessica Dinh; and Sara Shondrick. And then I’ve had great colleagues, so I’ve been lucky.
Scarpino: You collaborated actively with your colleagues at Akron?
Lord: Yeah, sure. Well, Ralph Alexander was somebody who was a gifted scholar. He was in the office next to me for 20 years until he died. Paul Levy, who was one of Roseanne Foti’s graduate students, who was department chair for a number of years when I was there.
Scarpino: I talked to him upon your recommendation.
Lord: Yeah. Okay.
Scarpino: Although the next few questions that I’m going to ask you actually are based on information that I got from David Day and he talked to me about a paper you published in 1977. It is called Implicit Leadership Theory: A Potential Threat to the Internal Validity of Leader Behavior Questionnaires, which you co-authored with Rush, Thomas, and yourself. Can you tell me a little bit about your co-authors?
Lord: Oh, sure. When I started, it was kind of interesting because it was 1974, and you had a lot of people who had been in the military who were coming back and continuing their education. Mike Rush was one of them. He was not that much younger than I was. He was dedicated to doing good research and willing to challenge ideas as to how you should do it. We spent a lot of time together. He was a good guy. He since has passed away. He was a great person to start out working with.
Scarpino: And Thomas?
Lord: Jay Thomas was also a smart guy, a hard worker. He wasn’t a veteran. He was kind of an oddball in some ways, but a good thinker. Both of them were guys you could rely on. They would work hard and get stuff right. Great co-authors.
Scarpino: You have this pattern on your impressive CV where you tend to publish with your doctoral students. Usually, it looks like about the time they’re getting ready to leave and go out into the world. Then with several of them there’s a gap and then you’re back again. I assume that those are the ones that have established themselves and. . .
Lord: Yeah, well, Akron was a funny place in that we had so many students that you were always kind of struggling just to keep up with your students. It was difficult when somebody left to have a collaboration that was uninterrupted. It’s just the way it was.
Scarpino: But in your field though, that co-authoring is a part of the mentoring process.
Lord: Absolutely, yeah, yeah.
Scarpino: In my field, it would be different. If I’m writing a book and it takes six years to write it, I’m not going to have a bunch of co-authors on it. Again, the title of the piece was Implicit Leadership Theory: A Potential Threat to the Internal Validity of Leader Behavior Questionnaires. For the benefit of somebody who is going to listen to this, could you explain Implicit Leadership Theory in terms that somebody not in your field could follow the explanation?
Lord: Sure. You start with the notion that it comes from the behaviorist perspective that what we should do is measure the behavioral styles of leaders, and that would be what differentiates one leader from another and allows us to understand how they’re perceived and their effect on performance. To do this, we rely on people who work for that leader to describe his or her behavior. Now, Implicit Leadership Theories are really cognitive structures, belief systems that people have about leadership that they’ve learned over time, or learned through their own experience, or maybe through culture and things like that. When they are asked to rate a behavior, they can do one of a number of things. They can remember a vivid behavior that guides their response. They may know something about the leader, and then they sort of integrate it with their implicit theories to come up with something that’s likely. That’s where Implicit Leadership Theories come in. The point is that ratings may reflect the implicit theories of followers as much or more than they reflect the actual behavior of leaders. Whether it is more, or a little bit, or none at all; the whole story varies from moment to moment. So, we don’t know. Then the issue of being a threat to the validity – the question is: What are these measures assessing? Are they assessing what the leader did, what people think the leader did, what they just think about leadership in general? And we don’t know.
Scarpino: The question I’m going to ask you is if there is any way to pull those variables apart and look at them – I mean, is it possible to understand each one of those variables and see how they work together?
Lord: Sure. Well, we know that performance information affects descriptions of leaders. That’s what we could all inferential processing. We know something about the structure of human memory in that typically we think of memory as having three parts: procedural memory, which is knowing how to do something like type; episodic memory, which is remembering clear episodes of something; and semantic memory. I think implicit theories are part of semantic memory. Semantic memory is a general memory. We tap into our general knowledge. What we can do is write and build measures that are more likely to tap into episodic memory. To do that, you need a clear, less complicated linguistic structure that asks about specific behaviors. But if it asks about specific behaviors and specific contexts, it may not generalize to other situations. And then I think you should move down to the event level to ask about specific events and what leaders did in a specific event. So, if someone asked me about General Petraeus, I would say, “Well, I think of how he behaved in the interview that he just gave an hour ago,” rather than my knowledge of General Petraeus as commander, or Director of the C.I.A., or something like that, where I have semantic information, but I don’t have any episodic information where I was there and saw it. Fred Morgeson is a good one for looking at to move down to the event level, and it can be done.
Scarpino: You are the developer of the Implicit Leadership Theory?
Lord: Oh, that’s not really true.
Scarpino: That was a question.
Lord: Popularizer of it.
Scarpino: Okay. I’m just going to be bold here. I mean, are you being modest?
Lord: No, no. The first publication was Eden and Leviatan in 1975. I think what we did is we tried to articulate its basis in cognitive and social cognitive processes.
Scarpino: When you started to publish in that area, did you have any difficulty getting your work accepted?
Lord: Oh yeah. I told you about that yesterday. The Rush, Thomas, and Lord article, we sent it JAP and got a response that said, “This is a decrement to the literature and should not be published anywhere.” Then we went someplace else. It got published, and it has been cited.
Scarpino: Part of the way you’re looking at leadership is as a process.
Scarpino: And that includes the leader and the follower.
Scarpino: Kind of a symbiotic relationship. Would it be fair for me to conclude, or for a person to conclude, that you were actually looking at followers and their role in the leadership process a long time before followership became fashionable?
Lord: Probably true. Yeah.
Scarpino: I mean, recently the word crops up all the time. You can’t talk about leadership without dropping that word in, but it really seems to me that you and your colleagues were working in that area decades ago.
Lord: Yeah. Followers, in terms of, well – leadership perceptions are perceptions of followers. So, when you work in that area, you have to look at the followers. You start out with looking at group behavior. Group behavior involves followers. Then if you pay attention to motivational and self-regulatory processes, and later on identity as a construct that ties those altogether, those are all follower-based constructs. So, yeah.
Scarpino: Looked at through the lens of Implicit Leadership Theory, how does one identify or explain successful leadership? How do we know if it works?
Lord: Well, you have to look at social outcomes. You have to look at performance outcomes. So, I just came from this talk about General Petraeus. He’ll go back to Iraq and say that their surge was successful because deaths went down 85%. That’s an objective measure. You can count it. So, measures where you have things that you can count are good. Social perceptions are good in some instances, if that is what your focus is. Leadership both involves perceptual processes and then what leaders do. They have to have the perceptions that they’re leaders and effective to have much leverage in changing things.
Scarpino: This is going to sound cynical, and I don’t mean it to come out that way. As I read work in this general area, one of the things that occurs to me is that somebody could read this stuff and conclude that leadership is about managing your image.
Lord: Yeah, it could be, and that’s part of leadership, but that’s not the whole story. You manage your image so that people perceive you as a leader. Some people do that very well, but that’s kind of the surface structure. The deeper structure is: Do you understand what you’re doing? Do you understand the policy implications of the strategies you develop? Do you understand the people that you’re working with and the fact that they have lives that they’re trying to lead in a way that is satisfying and allows them to grow and develop? Do you help that process? At multiple levels, you have to have an understanding that goes beyond your image and a willingness to do something and persist in it. A mistake in terms of leadership is to think that leaders just do something, and it works out. It doesn’t. You have to do it again and again and pay attention to details. Then you try and have change, there’s always backsliding. Then you have to sort of emphasize it again. It’s a process that you have to stick with.
Scarpino: How do charismatic leaders fit into your view of leadership?
Lord: They’re charismatic because of the way followers interpret them and the reaction that they have on followers. I think that some of them are only charismatic retrospectively, rather than prospectively. When you lump together people’s memories of what’s happened and what the outcomes were and the person and their involvement, someone becomes charismatic that when you talk to them face to face, you may not have seen it that way.
Scarpino: How about demagogues? How do they fit into the way you understand leadership?
Lord: I never really thought about it that much to be honest. I suppose they’re extreme examples in terms of charisma, but I just side-stepped, I don’t have a good answer for that question.
Scarpino: Again, David Day told me that in the article titled Implicit Leadership Theory: A Potential Threat to the Internal Validity of Leader Behavior Questionnaires, that you and your co-authors employed the Performance Cue Effect to demonstrate that leadership behavior description questionnaires that were in standard use had limitations. Because they were in such widespread use, and I assume still are. . .
Lord: . . . Yep.
Scarpino: . . . As I understand, basically the responses to the questionnaires were significantly, but unintentionally, impacted by the cues provided by the researcher.
Scarpino: Did you set out trying to find out if these questionnaires were flawed, or did you stumble into this? What was the research problem that you were working on in this piece?
Lord: Oh, like I was telling you yesterday, I got this 1975 issue of OBHDP. It came in the mail, I took it home, laid down on my orange shag carpet and started looking through it. I saw this article by Barry Staw and so I read this, and I said, whoa, this puts the research that we are doing in a completely new light. He didn’t do it with respect to leadership. He did it with respect to group processes in general. but I said we could do that. So, the typical process is – you know, you don’t get this idea just like that; you say, “This is a great article,” so then you go tell your graduate students to read it. Then you discuss it. Then you say – and maybe they have an idea. Since Rush was first author, it was probably his idea that we put this together, design a study, and examine it. Then it turned out to be a productive area because lots of people didn’t want to believe this. So, they say yes, but it doesn’t happen if they have behavioral information. So, then we do another and say, yeah, it does happen, and it doesn’t happen in this circumstance. So, we do another say and say, yeah, it does happen in this circumstance. It’s an area where everybody can raise objections, and you can do studies, and it always works. For a young researcher to have a paradigm that always works is nice. It was just a productive area to do research in at that time.
Scarpino: One of the things that I talked with David Day about was that – he said basically that the conclusions that you arrived at in this piece were largely ignored by your colleagues and peers. Why do you think that was?
Lord: Inconvenient. It’s like why are we ignoring climate change? It’s an inconvenient truth. It’s there. It’s going on, but it’s disruptive to your everyday functioning to recognize that what you’re doing is not right or it’s harmful. I’m thinking more of climate change than these instruments. So, people don’t want to do that. They want to keep doing what they’ve done that’s been successful for them.
Scarpino: The reason I’m pursing this is because I understand that this instrument is still widely used pretty much in the way that you criticized it.
Lord: Well, yes and no. It was a criticism of the leader behavior description questionnaire, which is an okay measure. I think it works in retrospect because people, according to Cuddy, Fiske and Glick, encode social information on two dimensions: warmth and confidence. This dealt with consideration and initiating structure. So, people could go right from their perceptions of how warm and competent someone was to fill out a questionnaire about whether they were considerate and how much structure they initiated. Causality went both ways. A lot of that research stopped with LBDQ after that era. It did have an effect on that instrument, but then people came out with the notion of transformational leadership. Bernie Bass had his multifactor leadership questionnaire. Bernie and Bruce Avolio did an article in Educational and Psychological Measurement – I think it was 1979 – that looked at the MLQ to see if it was susceptible to performance cue effects. Their conclusion was: Well, no. If you used a forced choice format, it wasn’t. But about 80-90% of the variance was associated with leadership prototypes. If I looked at their article, I’d say the same thing. But because it’s a different instrument, a different idea, people got on the bandwagon that this was a great way to go. It wasn’t until Van Knippenberg and Sitkin in 2013 really – harshly is a nice word – harshly criticized the MLQ that I think the careful reader would say maybe a lot of this literature isn’t as good as we think it was. The same problem.
Lord: Multifactor leadership questionnaire.
Scarpino: So the last piece you mentioned was really calling a lot of the work that Bernie Bass and other people developed into question.
Lord: Yeah, the Van Knippenberg and Sitkin article says: Let’s toss this out and start again. But I will say one thing that we’re doing is that we have done some research with the MLQ. We use this technique that cognitive scientists use to ask people to reflect when they fill out at item, whether it is based on a vivid recollection, episodic memory, or semantic memory. And so we’ve done that and we’ve taken the MLQ apart and reformed it into scales that are primarily episodic versus scales that are primarily semantic. When we put them together, the episodic items always predict better. We don’t know if it’s item-specific or whether you’re tapping into a different process. So that’s kind of hopeful in terms of measurement. We’re trying to explore that with different measures.
Scarpino: So that’s your current research, when you say we.
Lord: It’s current research that we’re doing, yeah. We would be me, Tiffany Hansbrough, Roseanne Foti, and Birgit Schyns.
Scarpino: In 1986, you published a piece called A Meta-Analysis of the Relation between Personality Traits and Leadership Perceptions: An Application of the Validity Generalization Procedures with Christy De Vader and Alliger. . .
Lord: . . .Yeah, George Alliger.
Scarpino: . . . in the Journal of Applied Psychology. De Vader was one of your doctoral students.
Scarpino: And, Alliger?
Lord: He was one of my doctoral students too.
Scarpino: Okay. So, what I wanted to talk to you about was your use of meta-analysis. So far as I can tell, that was the first piece that you published where you used meta-analysis. . .
Lord: . . . Yeah.
Scarpino: . . . because I didn’t read everything you wrote, obviously, but how did you become interested in doing that? What attracted you to that methodology?
Lord: Good fortune, really. I was in a program where we covered the field broadly. I’ll tell you exactly what happened. I was grading comps, which are – PhD students after three years, they have to answer broad questions in like two days of their life that they will always remember, but would like to forget.
Scarpino: I remember mine. (Laughing)
Lord: Yeah, exactly. I had just graded like twelve answers on meta-analysis. Then I got two a question on leadership and the fact that there’s variability of results in terms of how things like intelligence relate to outcomes. After reading this – the key about meta-analysis is that – the argument is that when you’re doing research, you’re sampling from a population, and each different sample is going to be a little bit different. So, that’s going to introduce variability in terms of what your findings are. But if you can find a way to aggregate across those different samples, you can get an estimate of the population value. I looked at this area of leadership research, which was done by a guy by the name of Floyd Mann (Spelling???) and published in 1959. Mann’s (Spelling???) conclusion about leadership and intelligence was simply that there is too much variability there. It’s generally a positive relationship, but there is variability in the values. I looked at that, and I said, ah, it’s a meta-analysis issue. You know, it’s just sampling variability. Then again, you have to find students – see, the students would have taken courses where they covered meta-analysis. I never had a course in meta-analysis, but I had the idea. So, I said, “Hey, what do you guys think about this?” and they thought it was a good idea. They dug and got the literature and did the meta-analysis. We got it published. Then it sort of changed the way people thought about traits and leadership in the leadership field. So then after that, you have a lot of meta-analyses being applied.
Scarpino: How did it change the way people – because that is where I really wanted to go with this is: How did it change the way people, which would be scholars in your field, thought about traits in leadership?
Lord: Well, they started doing meta-analyses. Then you find, yeah, there are traits that are associated with leadership, but you have to keep in mind that most of the dependent variables they looked at were of the perceptual nature. So, we know that traits are associated with the way people are perceived as leaders. What causes what isn’t quite clear all of the time.
Scarpino: The idea that traits were influential had sort of fallen out of favor.
Scarpino: And in this piece, the power of the piece is that it reintroduced it back into the conversation.
Scarpino: Just again for the benefit of people who are using this, you concluded in your piece trait theories have not been seriously considered by leadership researchers since Mann and Stogdill reported that no traits consistently differentiated leaders from non-leaders across a variety of situations. The thesis of this article is that these reviews have often been misinterpreted. Then you went on to make that argument. Would it be reasonable for somebody who is not in your field to conclude that this really was a game changer in terms of. . .
Lord: . . . Yeah, yeah, it would be, it would be, yeah. . .
Scarpino: . . . reintroduce the idea of traits playing. . . You identified masculinity and femininity as personality traits associated with leadership perceptions in this piece.
Scarpino: What would your identifying and validating that trait say, if anything, about the differences and similarities between men and women seeking to fill leadership roles?
Lord: Oh, it says a lot. What it tells you is that – and one of the things that the reviewers asked us to do, and it was a good thing in that article, is to draw the parallels between people’s implicit theories and between the dimensions in our meta-analyses. So, the masculinity/femininity comes out in terms of meta-analysis, but it also comes out in terms of people’s implicit theories as being a dimension. What that means is that if people don’t think carefully about leadership, they can more rapidly access leadership constructs and use them to make sense of behavior if the target is a male than if it’s a female. Kristyn Scott and Doug Brown have a great article where it shows exactly that, that if you show people an agentic behavior of a female leader, they have a latency in encoding it that’s greater than if you show them the same behavior for a male target. I say show them; they didn’t really show them that. It was a written study. We’re just slower to encode information that is inconsistent with implicit theories. You have to encode it more effortfully, or it’s gone. So, it’s an inherent bias against women. It’s there. You can’t deny it.
Scarpino: What kind of an impact would that information, or should that information, have on, say, leadership training?
Lord: Well, that’s really an interesting question because you can approach it in two ways. You can say: Well, we need to change society, we need to have equal opportunity, we need to change our culture so that there’s more opportunity for women as leaders. And we should do that; it’s critically important that we do do that. But for a particular leader, a specific female who wants to be a leader and has the other capacities, changing society is not a good recommendation. You want to know: Well, what can you do to overcome this? So, behaving in ways that are decisive, that show intelligence, that fit with other aspects of implicit theories, so people access the leadership construct with respect to you. Those are things that you can control as a leader. Also, this is a really interesting finding that I think has a lot of importance. We did a study where we altered camera angles. We viewed the same person saying the same thing, either in a way that made them in the center of your visual screen or a little bit to the side. When you show people these – different groups of people – these two conditions, people who saw the person in the center of your visual screen gave higher leadership ratings to that person, and they saw them as being more causal, even though people saw the same thing. It’s what is called the salience effect. So, I think the advice to female leaders is: Do things that make you more salient, visually. Don’t sit if you can stand. It’s kind of like the image management stuff that you talked about. You want to be prominent. You don’t want to be hesitant about things.
Scarpino: Because this comes up from time to time, that’s not the same as telling women that to be successful they have to act like men.
Lord: No, it’s not saying that you have be masculine. It’s saying there is this bias against you, and so you have to find ways to overcome it. There are ways, in terms of emphasizing behavior that fits with prototypes or in terms of being salient and assertive. I think that those are strategies that will work for a specific individual.
Scarpino: I’m going to skate out onto thin ice here, but I can do that. You referenced Mann, published in 1959, and Stogdill, S-t-o-g-d-i-l-l, published in 1948. When they did their research and published, they couldn’t possibly have had much access to any computing capability.
Lord: No, no.
Scarpino: So, was your meta-analysis of trait theories an attempt to apply science to what had up until then been largely qualitative examination?
Lord: No, I wouldn’t say it had been largely qualitative. They used measures of personality. They correlated personality measures with outcomes. They just didn’t have an understanding of sampling error and what it does to population estimates the way Schmidt and Hunter’s meta-analysis work informed us about. They didn’t have the software to run meta-analyses either.
Scarpino: I remember using a volume that was to generate random samples. It was called 100,000 Random Numbers and So Many Normal Deviates. It was just this big book that we had to go to to generate random samples.
Lord: Yeah, yeah. Now it would be just done by a computer program.
Scarpino: Before I let this go, and given that people who listen to this or read this are likely not to be in your field, could you kind of give a layperson’s explanation of what meta-analysis is? I think it would be better coming from you than me trying it.
Lord: Sure. It’s a technique that takes data on results from various samples or different studies and weights it by the number of people in the particular sample -- so you give more weight to the larger samples – and uses it to estimate the likely population estimate for the variable that you’re trying to look it. It is just a way of cumulating results across studies to get a better estimate of what the true value of something is. We call it a population parameter rather than a sample parameter. Of course, the thing is not every study that’s done gets published, so you have to find – it’s how you get the studies that you look at, which is really a critical issue, and that is: Do you get all the doctoral dissertations that weren’t published? Do you get the studies that were rejected? So, as well as looking at what’s published, you have to write people and try all kinds of things to get these other studies, so you have a better estimate.
Scarpino: The universe that you’re analyzing is other people’s work.
Scarpino: Then you, in effect by engaging in this meta-analysis, can take advantage of the cumulative information that’s in all of those studies, and very likely could come to conclusions that are quite different than the original authors.
Lord: Could be. Yeah.
Scarpino: Alice Eagley, who you co-authored with, right, in 2017. . .
Lord: . . . Yeah.
Scarpino: . . . did some really interesting work on the published sex of researchers and sex-type communications by doing meta-analysis.
Scarpino: She was looking for something that wasn’t really there to begin with and came to some amazing conclusions. That’s sort of what you did, wasn’t it?
Scarpino: Not with sex types, but. . .
Lord: Yeah, well, Alice’s stuff is really interesting because you find that females tend to be more transformational than males. That’s one of her meta-analysis findings. Another finding, which is worth pointing out, is a lot of people say that organizations perform better if they have a better representation of minorities and women on the Board. Alice finds that’s not true from meta-analytic research. It’s cumulating research. It’s kind of objective, if the studies are objective, and it’ll lead you to conclusions that maybe are different than you would get otherwise.
Scarpino: I’m going to switch to another one of your publications as a way to talk about your evolving thinking on leadership. In 1991, you published a book we’ve already talked about in passing. You co-authored this book with Karen Maher, Leadership and Information Processing: Linking Perceptions and Organization Performance. She was one of your doctoral students.
Scarpino: I didn’t read the whole thing, but I read as much as I had time for. At one point, you said, “At this point, we should distinguish between the constructs of leadership and management. We conceptualize leadership as resulting from a social-perceptual process – the essence of leadership is being seen as a leader by others.” What is the connection between cultural context and this view of leadership that you express here? Given we’re in a foreign country. . .
Lord: It’s a strong connection. Different cultures will have different views of what characteristics define a good leader and lead to go outcomes in their culture. We talked about it when we started in terms of evolutionary theory. And then linguistic theory would suggest that people are good at encoding into language the aspects of social behavior that lead to successful outcomes in their particular culture. So if we look at, for example, leadership in China, paternalistic leadership is an important kind of leadership. We don’t see much of that in the U.S. You might see some in some European countries, but probably it’s not common. Different cultures have different beliefs, and they have different social organizations, different industrial organizations. Leadership is culture-specific.
Scarpino: If we’re going to successfully educate people to be leaders, does that have to be rooted in the culture?
Lord: Well, sure, in the sense that it doesn’t have to rooted in the culture. Well, let me back up. They need know how their culture functions and be able to function in that culture. But then when they go to a different culture, they need to be aware of the differences. Moving to a different culture trips people up often. Ben Shaw has an article that takes categorization theory and applies it to difficulties that people have with cross-cultural leadership movements. It’s probably like a 1990 article, something like that.
Scarpino: You then went on to say that: “Based on this logic, we define leadership as a process of being perceived by others as a leader. The locus of leadership is not solely in a leader or solely in the followers. Instead it involves behaviors, traits, characteristics, and outcomes produced by leaders as these elements are interpreted by others.” I kind of already asked you this, but I want to put this in one place. If leadership is a process of being perceived by others as a leader, then does that encourage leaders to put their efforts into managing perceptions? Or should it encourage leaders to put their efforts into managing perceptions?
Lord: I think good leaders do that. That’s not all they do, but that’s part of it. Managing perceptions gives you more social power. That increases what Hambrick and Finkelstein call the latitude of discretion in terms of the policies that you can implement. If you want to have people accept and follow your policy beliefs, then you need to be perceived as a leader. Now, it may also be that that’s not the best approach towards leadership. What you really want to do it catalyze things so that ideas and structures emerge from followers. That’s a different take on leadership. That’s more complexity theory and less hierarchical leadership. Image management may help in your career in the short run. I’m not sure that it’s going to help society and the leadership field in general in the long run.
Scarpino: We talked about the fact about leadership being a cultural construction, but is leadership situational?
Scarpino: In what way would you describe leadership as situational?
Lord: Because leaders have to deal with events. I think when we understand leadership, we want to move it up to the level of the person. What happens in terms of specific events is situational. Okay, I’m going to pick Trump – how Trump manages the hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico – that’s a specific event, and it’s situational. He has to manage the relief process or put somebody in charge who can manage the relief process, but he also has to manage the perceptions. I don’t think he did a very good job when he went down to Puerto Rico of managing perceptions in a way that’s in his favor. Let’s hope that the federal government has done a better job of managing the relief process. It’s event-specific. It deals with Puerto Rico because Puerto Rico is different than Florida. You can’t have all of these electricity companies from the rest of the U.S. move their trucks into Puerto Rico the way they did in Florida.
Scarpino: Again, the same article, you said: “Further, leadership processes are merely a specific example of more general social-cognitive processes that continually occur in everyday life.” I would like to get you to talk about that because I think what you’re doing there is connecting leadership to the society in which the leader exists. Could you talk a little bit more about how leadership processes are merely a specific example of more general social-cognitive processes that occur?
Lord: Sure. I’m drawing on the work that Karl Weick on sense-making. People have to make sense all the time of where they are in a particular physical space, social space, task space and in their own personal history and their capabilities. So, that’s a story. They do it drawing on their emotional responses, their experience, the cognitive structures they have, and their perception of what’s going on at a particular moment. Now, here’s the important thing. When they make sense of it and look backwards, they see a lot more certainty than actually existed when they were trying to put all the pieces together. For example, Steve Jobs says, “Well, you can connect all the dots, but only looking backwards.” Leadership is part of that process.
Scarpino: But that’s sort of part of the process of being human, right? We make sense out of the world in which we live, and it is easier to do in hindsight.
Lord: Absolutely. Yep. Exactly.
Scarpino: Would one be correct in concluding that you’re really saying that leadership is a part of the fabric of society in which it exists, and you can’t pull it apart?
Lord: That’s right. That’s a complexity theory argument, that if you start pulling various aspects apart and taking analytic approach, you lose something. Now, how far you can do that is an interesting question for science to deal with.
Scarpino: Is that a question you have wrestled with in your own work?
Lord: No, I don’t really deal with big questions (laughter). I just sort of focus on what I’m doing at the moment.
Scarpino: That’s not true. In chapter 11, which is entitled, “A CUSP,” C-U-S-P, “Catastrophe Model of Organizational Performance,” David Day actually kind of coached me through this chapter, so I thank him and I’m responsible for any conclusions that are in error. He pointed out that in that chapter, and elsewhere in the book, that you and Karen Maher employed non-linear dynamics and chaos theory to address the issues of how perceptions change from one state to another. Day believed that you were influenced by theoretical physics and its consideration of how matter changes from one state to another. Let me back up now. Using non-linear dynamics and chaos theory to address how issues of perceptions change from one state to another; that’s part of understanding leadership. I assume it’s also part of understand society. Is that what you were doing there?
Lord: No, no. Dave is giving me too much credit. When we wrote that, we were largely thinking in terms of dynamic systems theory -- but not theoretical physics -- in terms of how systems can shift from one attractor to another, and the notion of an attractor is an important idea. It’s a point of stability in some sort of space. This room and this interview process is a point. It’s an attractor. It’s something that I’m comfortable with and knew about, and could gravitate towards relatively easily after I had done it the first time. So, what happens in social perceptions is we use constructs that we’re familiar with, they’re accessible to make sense of things. And when we shift from one attractor to another, it’s a catastrophe in terms of it’s a radical shift that changes perceptions. I learned about catastrophe theory from Ralph Alexander who was one of my colleagues, and he really understood it a whole lot better than me. We’ve done a few studies that use it. Paul Hanges, who did his Master’s with and his PhD with Ralph, he’s the one that sort of moved that along and has educated me in the process. It’s a mathematical way to represent both stability and radical change in the same system.
Scarpino: It’s called catastrophe theory because that radical change . . .
Lord: . . . Is a catastrophe.
Scarpino: . . . is likely to be a catastrophe.
Lord: Yeah. It’s a switch in attractors. For example, we did a study which has never been published. I think it should have been. We – Paul Hanges, Dave Day and I – built tapes that had nine episodes in them and could be viewed in either order. What changed across the nine episodes was the proportion of activities, of leadership activities, that were done by males versus females. People saw a four-person group interacting, and they saw snippets of this over time. What happens is, it’s a catastrophe when someone shifts – I’m careful about my wording here – from a female leader to a male leader. They’re switching to a different attractor. The same thing happens when they switch in the opposite direction. What we found is that people delay the switch. Even though there is a linear change, they stick with their first impression longer than they should, and then all of the sudden jump to a new reality, a new interpretation. But they delay longer when you’re going from male to female than when you’re going from female to male. And so that switch is harder for people to make perceptually, and it’s especially hard for people who had strong gender biases.
Scarpino: Is it likely that the men would have a harder time making the switch than women?
Lord: Yes. But that’s a demographic. What’s really the driver is whether they had traditional sex role stereotypes.
Scarpino: So, part of the research is to try to measure that?
Lord: Yeah, to measure that and other factors that affect the nature of this change, like the need for cognitive closure would be another one. People who want certainty are less able to shift.
Scarpino: One of the things that David really wanted me to ask you, and you may have already answered this, was: Were you in fact integrating theory incorporating information from physics to explain how perceptions change from one state to another?
Lord: Not at that time. I got into the physics stuff a little bit later on, which is an interesting story.
Scarpino: We’re going to talk about that. Control Theory – a large part of your reputation as a scholar is based on your use of Control Theory of motivation. Number one, could you give a layperson’s explanation of what that is? And number two, does that have any direct connection to leadership?
Lord: Yeah, sure, both. Control Theory is easiest to understand if you think of a thermostat, okay? You have a standard, which could be temperature, or it could be a goal that people set. You maintain that standard, and you respond to inconsistencies. Maybe it’s sunny, and the temperature – or it’s cold and the room gets cooler, and so the thermostat says there’s a discrepancy, and it turns on the heating system. It resolves the discrepancy. Then things stop. That’s kind of a model of motivation, but it’s more complicated because people have goals, and they may continually raise their goals. They pursue those goals through motivated behavior and strategies that they have. If they make good progress, they keep the goals. If they make slow progress or no progress, they lower the goals. It’s a cybernetic theory, but what’s changing is both the behavior and the standards that you’re trying to achieve, but they do it in different timeframes. Behavior changes in the very short run. Goals change in a little bit longer run. Now, how does it tie into leadership? Leaders inspire people to set goals and to persist. If you convince your followers that they have the ability to do great things, they will persist longer before they lower their goals than if they think they’re no good and they have no skill. Leaders can have that effect on goals, and that can have an effect on people’s persistence with goals. And then they can have effects on the way they interpret success or failure. That’s the basic model. If you go further into the process, what happens when you set goals is that information associated with competing goals is harder to access, so people are able to stay focused. What allows them to stay focused – you get into the neuropsychology – is a dopamine-based gating system that means that their mind will focus on the information that’s related to goals as long as they anticipate success. That’s what triggers the release of dopamine. It’s the anticipation of success. When you get discouraged, you can’t focus, and you’re easily distracted.
Scarpino: When I talked to Paul Levy, he told me that the intellectual roots of Control Theory actually came from the field of engineering.
Lord: Yeah, that’s true.
Scarpino: Can you, again, sort of explain for the benefit of laypeople who are going to listen to this where that came from?
Lord: Well, engineers build control systems, like a thermostat would be a control system. A lot of the criticism of the area came from the mechanical analogy. It’s the way mechanical systems work, and it’s the way that human behavior does the same thing that mechanical systems do, but it does it in a much more sophisticated and variable manner. People don’t always persist. They don’t always achieve what they set out to do. In high reliability systems, they work all the times, when good engineers (laughing). . .
Scarpino: . . . They’re also perfectly logical, which people are not either.
Lord: Exactly. People are not. So, there’s that difference and you have to recognize it, but the principles are there.
Scarpino: Are you the one who connected those areas? Control Theory is your theory, right?
Lord: No. Other people have done it first. I kind of made it more popular and did a couple studies. This was a long time ago. This was the late 1990s, and I can’t really think off the top of my head of the person’s name, or I would give it to you.
Scarpino: The other thing that Paul Levy. . .
Lord: . . . Powers.
Lord: Powers. Yes.
Scarpino: So, you built upon his work, were inspired by his work?
Lord: Absolutely, absolutely, yeah.
Scarpino: Levy also told me that, and some of the other people with whom I spoke, that you had trouble initially getting your work based on Control Theory published in refereed journals.
Lord: Well, sure. There was kind of a debate between goal setting theorists and control theorists. It was good for the discipline. Basically, we’re saying the same thing, that people set goals and pursue goals, and that you need feedback or goal setting won’t work. So, egos get involved. That’s the best way to put it.
Scarpino: (laughing) That happens. In 2007, you moved to Durham. Before we talk about Durham, is there anything that you want to mention about your time at Akron that I didn’t ask you, because I sort of skipped over that. I mean, you certainly developed a program there that had a very high national profile.
Lord: Yeah, sure. You know, people don’t just do research; they have lives. My kids were born in Akron, and they stayed in Akron. I stayed Akron as long as they were there. It was a good place for me. It was important for me to be close to them, and it still is. But they both grew up, went elsewhere, and had jobs. Then I was retired, and I was more free to do other things. My daughter Nicole is in Madison, Wisconsin, and my son is in Minneapolis. They’re both happy. One is married, and one is not, but they both have partners and good jobs so it was a time when I felt comfortable in doing something else.
Scarpino: So, you really had had one full career and a pretty full life in Akron.
Scarpino: I understand that you retired, and then they hired you back for a few years.
Lord: Yeah, that’s true.
Scarpino: So you were really not prepared to actually retire.
Lord: No, yeah, it was just a good deal. What can I say? I’m not stupid. You get a good deal, you take a good deal.
Scarpino: Oh, that’s not where I was going with that. I mean, it is hard to stop.
Scarpino: But you did make a decision to move to Durham in 2007, and you’re still there. What attracted you to Durham? I mean, if you were going to go somewhere, why did you go there?
Lord: Circumstance and – well, first of all, Durham is sort of seen as being one of the great universities in the world, especially by the British and especially by (laughing) people in Durham. So that’s kind of cool. Whether it’s true is debatable, but some people believe that.
Scarpino: But in terms of goal setting, that’s a good one.
Lord: Yeah, that’s a good one. But in terms of mechanics, I didn’t know much about Durham. I was just at a conference and I was at a poster session. Poster sessions are where people present papers on a bulletin board, and they stand around and talk to people. So I was talking to somebody, and Birgit Schyns came up to the same poster session because she does stuff in Implicit Leadership Theories, too. I had met her the day before, so I just started talking to her. She was telling me about Durham, and she loves her job, and they’re looking for people. I said, “Well, I might be available.” I was just kind of joking, but she didn’t see it as that way. I had already agreed to do a paper at a conference in Sheffield, so she said, “If you’re going to Sheffield, come visit us.” “Come visit us” can be a very seductive phrase, I guess. So, both my wife and I did. We went to Durham. She says, “I’ll organize a talk,” and I said, “Yeah, okay, sure.” So, we gave talks, and they offered us jobs on the spot. We said, “We’ll think about it,” but we negotiated something that was acceptable. We went home and thought about it – me more than I think my wife who continually reminds me of this – thought, “Well, yeah, why not?” So, when we went, we thought it would just be for a year or two, and it has extended beyond a couple of years and will probably extend into the future. But then we’re kind of moving back and forth between two continents because our family is in the U.S., and we’re in the U.K. There are challenges, but it’s largely been a good move.
Scarpino: You’re Professor of Management at Durham Business School and Durham International Center for Leadership and Followership.
Scarpino: As I look at your career, (laughing) through the eyes of a humanist, you’re best known as a scientist, theoretical scholar. One of the things you do at Durham is work with MBA students, Executive MBA, who I probably couldn’t imagine really being too interested in the theory and really very interested in getting a high-paying job. How does the scientist and the theoretical scholar match up with the MBA students?
Lord: Well, MBA students and Executive MBA students are students first of all, so they don’t mind scholarship. They’re pretty bright, motivated people, so they’ll work hard and read the stuff. But I also don’t spend much time teaching MBA students, and I don’t teach MBA students anymore. I spend most of my time working with other faculty and doctoral students there, which is kind of what I’ve done all my career. (laughing) It’s an attractor. It’s like you gravitate to the same kinds of things.
Scarpino: The International Center for Leadership and Followership – what is that all about? What does it do, and what do you do there?
Lord: Basically, what I do there is solve problems. With a lot of people, there’s obviously going to be problems. Europe is different than the U.S. in that there’s more movement of people from one institution to another. That’s always a challenge, keeping the faculty that you have and attracting new faculty. I help in that respect, both directly and, in all honesty, symbolically. But the idea there is pretty simple: to build a world-class leadership center where people want to come there to study to leadership, to do leadership research, to engage in leadership practice. I think we’re able to do that. We’ve convinced a lot of other people to come. Durham has a great advantage. They have this cathedral that is phenomenal. It was built, started in like 980 and completed in like 1120 or something like that. You can just take people into this cathedral and they say, “Holy mackerel!” and they’re wowed. They walk away, and they have images of celestial connection or something – I don’t know. (laughter) It’s a beautiful city. People like being there. The weather isn’t ideal, but people don’t realize that in the short run so people come.
Scarpino: But you also in the Center have a cohort of colleagues, right?
Scarpino: . . . who are interested in this same general area of study, which may be for the first time in your professional career that you have had that many colleagues in one place who. . .
Lord: . . . Yeah. That’s probably true. But it doesn’t – it’s great, and I really value the colleagues that I have, but it doesn’t matter so much anymore because you’ve got the internet; you can Skype with people, etc. so you can really be connected all over the world. It is a great group of people, and we meet every week and have lunch. New ideas come up. Students are from all over the world, which is an adjustment for me a bit, so they have different backgrounds and different ways of thinking. It’s a bit of challenge that you discover as you move alone. It’s not something that you’re aware of until things that you did before don’t seem to be working quite the same way, and you figure out why.
Scarpino: Having that diversity of humanity is a little bit like a leadership laboratory, isn’t it? I mean, people bring different perspectives to the situation.
Lord: Yeah, yeah, sure.
Scarpino: You’ve been a scholar and a teacher for a long time, and reached the age when many people retire. I’m in the same boat. I’m not going to retire. You have remained productive, engaged, and continue to push boundaries. One of the things that fits into that category is an example of an article that I’ve been dying to talk to you about, which is A Quantum Approach to Time and Organizational Change, which you co-authored with Jessica Dinh and E. Hoffman.
Lord: Ernest Hoffman.
Scarpino: Ernest Hoffman -- in the Academy of Management Review in 2015. I note that both Dinh and Hoffman were graduate students of yours, but can you talk about the genesis of a quantitative approach to time and organizational change? I mean, you are attempting to integrate psychics into your analysis at this point.
Lord: Yeah, yeah, sure. So, you would say, “How did I get the idea?” Well, I was watching TV. I was watching this program on PBS called Nova. Brian Greene was talking about it, and I thought, “Wow, this is pretty interesting.” So, Brian Greene is a writer, as well as being a physicist, and he has a couple, maybe three now, books. So, I got his book, read his book, and I thought, “Oh, this is pretty interesting.” I bought a couple more copies, and I gave one to Jessica and Ernest. I said, “Here, go read this.” So, we would talk about it. Then we thought we would write a review paper. We went through four reviews, but they were really pretty encouraging, and it got published. So, what is unique about theoretical physics that has anything to do with leadership? Well, it’s the notion, and it’s debated by physicists, but it is called the Copenhagen Interpretation from the early 1900s. It’s an interpretation that Einstein would not agree with, but it’s the notion that things can exist in a state – that an electron can travel as a wave, it’s in multiple places at once, and reality can have multiple aspects at the same time, that we only are conscious and aware of one that we experience. In physics, it would be the position that they measure. So, we’ve extended the idea to a broader perspective. What they call the super position state, we call a super potentiality state. It’s the notion that all the time, there are many alternative possibilities that could occur. They have a certain probability of occurring. Only one happens, but the others were out there at some point in time. I gave you the example of how I got to Durham. I could have been standing at a different poster session, because a few minutes before and a few minutes afterwards I was at different poster boards, and never met Birgit and I’d never be in Durham. I might be someplace else. There were alternative potentials for me. There always are alternative potentials, but once something happens, it is the one that defines reality for you so that when you look backwards at your life’s history, it seems to have more continuity and more certainty than does the projection into the future. People are aware of that. I mean, when they talk about the distant future, they use more abstract terms. When they talk about the past, they use concrete terms. Thinking of it as the problem that leaders have to confront is an interesting problem because they always – well, I won’t say always – but they often have to figure out which of the potentials they want to pursue and which ones they won’t pursue. When they do that and pursue some alternatives, they change reality, and they change the way things unfold. So how you conceptualize that, how you represent it mathematically, how you use it to guide your leadership strategies is something that we’re thinking about.
Scarpino: But that has to assume that the leader would be cognizant of those potentials.
Lord: No, not really, because some of those potentials are enacted. They’re just saying that the potentials are out there. They’re like affordances the way Gibson talks about affordances, that the environment has affordances that are there. If people act in a certain way, it can support those affordances. The notion of exploration versus exploitation that comes from James March suggests that you learn about them by doing things; and when you do that, reality changes for you.
Scarpino: So what does that say to people who are leaders? I mean, I can understand that you put this in a scholarly journal, and it’s a scholarly conversation, but how might that influence somebody who is a leader, or somebody who is training to be a leader?
Lord: Well, I’ll give you two more personal examples. One is if you back up a step, and you say even before someone sees them self as a leader, or is in training to be a leader, they have that potential. They may not even realize that that potential is out there. They may be doing something that other people label as leaders. I think I mentioned that example yesterday, which comes from Matt Alverson and some of his work. That potential is there, but it may be until other people tell you that you’re a leader that you recognize it, that that identity becomes one that you apply to yourself. So then once that happens, I think you can build skills and seek further leadership activities. It’s that initial creation of a self-view that’s probably the seed from which leadership skills develop. Now, you could turn it around and say, “Okay, what does that mean for leaders?” It means that they should be aware that there is all this potential in the people that they are working with, and what they do and how they label those individuals can affect the potential identities that they can develop, and the way that they define reality, and the way that they experience it for themselves, and the trajectories that their lives go on. It’s a simple idea, but I think it has profound implications.
Scarpino: Are we going to see more on quantum theory?
Lord: Yeah. I hope so. To be honest, I’m working Susanne Braun, and we’re trying to apply it to the notion of identity invention. The argument is that you have lots of identities, lots of things that you could be and could develop and they’re out there as a potential, particularly in the distant future. The distant future is probably more meaningful for somebody who is younger – like Susanne picked the first example. She said, “Let’s ask people about 40 years from now.” I said, “I don’t want to answer questions about 40 years from now because I won’t be here. Let’s try 10.” But in so many ways, it applies. The world will be different. How will they fit in? Who will they be? Those are things that are out there. There are lots of possibilities, and people have to repeatedly find the way that they fit in that’s meaningful for them. When they do that and label themselves in a way, that would be what physicists might think of as a quantum collapse. That’s the way that Henry Sapp talks about it. That’s why yesterday when you asked me about books, I said, “Read his book,” his 2009 book.
Scarpino: I’m sure that people are going to listen to this and not know what a quantum collapse is.
Lord: A quantum collapse is when it – in physics, it’s what happens when you measure something. So then you find an electron is at a specific position, and it has a specific velocity, although you can’t measure both at the same time and it wasn’t that way before you measured it. So the implication for leadership and social perceptions is when we go in and ask people about leadership, are we creating a phenomena for the perceiver that didn’t exist before? That is the generalization of the issue that quantum physics dealt with in measurement 90 years ago to social perceptions in measurement. Are there ways that we could measure processes that don’t put the words in somebody’s mouth, literally, or the labels in their mind?
Scarpino: Are there?
Lord: I think there are what we call implicit measures. So, you could use implicit measures. They’re harder to use, harder to interpret, but they might be more useful.
Scarpino: We briefly yesterday talked about the Leverhulme trust project that you’re working on. In 2014-2017, £99,833.00 is a lot of money. It’s entitled “International Network of Implicit Leadership Theory.” Could you briefly explain what you were doing there? I mean, the project is wrapped up, and I understand that you have continuing funding now to keep the momentum. But just in general terms, what was the purpose of this? And you were the P.I. on this grant, right?
Lord: Yeah, that’s true. The purpose was to bring people together so that they can have a more collaborative approach to doing leadership research, and learn quicker about what other people are doing. You know, when you read something in a journal article, it’s kind of like a three- or four-year lag in terms of history as to when they had an idea and did the research. If you can bring people together and get them to communicate better, then you can reduce that time lag and help people as a group do better science. So that’s the basic idea. We have a good time, too, and that’s a spinoff.
Scarpino: But that’s one of the thing that keeps one at the science, right?
Lord: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I mean, we like what we’re doing, we like each other. Sometimes coordinating a meeting with 15 to 20 people from all over the world is a bit of a pain, but I have an administrative assistant who does most of that. She does a really good job.
Scarpino: I understand that you’ve secure funding to expand this network that you started.
Lord: Not to expand it, but to continue it. Yeah, from the Army Research Institute.
Scarpino: What does one do for the Army Research Institute? The U.S. Army Research Institute?
Lord: The U.S. Army Research Institute. Well, we do research. Just a small part of that is to meet and discuss what we do, but we do research on implicit theories and trying to improve measurement, and also looking at how leadership identities develop. It’s a collaborative grant, so what it does is funds groups of projects that other people do. We’re just kind of the conduit, but we do our own research too.
Scarpino: I’m going to ask you some wrap-up questions. I’ll respect your time and have you out here probably sooner than we said.
Lord: That’s okay. I have to give a talk at noon anyway.
Scarpino: This is actually a question that in one way or another, each one of the people that you suggested I talk to wanted me to ask you. The question is: What keeps your intellectual fires burning? What keeps you motivated?
Lord: That’s a good question.
Scarpino: I mean, I’m asking the motivation scholar what keeps him going.
Lord: Well, it’s interesting. It’s something that I think I’m reasonably good at. My wife does it too, so we both are happy spending a lot of time working, although she’s better at developing other interests than me. She plays the cello now, so that takes some time. It’s just interesting. There’s always new things that you can come across and use it to gain some insight into issues that you didn’t understand so well before.
Scarpino: Like quantum theory?
Lord: Quantum theory, or – a guy by the name of Stanislas Dehaene has a theory of – it’s called a Global Workspace Theory, but that consciousness is really global workspace that allows us to integrate information from various parts of the brain. That’s a quantum collapse. So it’s in a microcosm of what somebody like Henry Sapp argues exists. It’s interesting. I still like to read stuff. You know, you get older, your vision isn’t as good (laughter). Other things don’t work as well, but I can still do it, so I’m happy to do it.
Scarpino: What do you think most urgently needs to be done in the field? What is the field not looking at that it should be looking at? What’s out there that needs to be done?
Lord: That’s a really tough question because people are doing such diverse things in the leadership area. I think they need to have better measures, more comprehensive views as to what’s going on. I suppose, now that I think about it, I would say three things. Better measures, that’s number one. You need to do predictive studies rather than retrospective studies. By predictive, I mean where you manipulate something so you understand causality. You look at the consequences down the road. And you need to separate perceptions from performance. So that’s three, and I don’t know if I said this, but I think you need to move down to the event level in terms of understanding performance.
Scarpino: Professionally, what are you most proud of?
Lord: Oh, I’m most proud of my students. Personally, I’m most proud of my kids (laughter).
Scarpino: I understand. Do you consider yourself to be a work in progress?
Lord: I hope I’m still in progress (laughter). Yeah.
Scarpino: Let me ask it a different way. Professionally, what do you still want to accomplish?
Lord: That’s a funny thing because I haven’t thought too much in terms of accomplishments. I just do things.
Scarpino: Well, let’s substitute “do” for “accomplish.” Professionally, what do you still want to do?
Lord: I would like to have a better PhD program at Durham that brings – I think we brought the leadership scholars there, but we don’t have a good recruiting system to get the best students and support the best students. It’s don’t differently in the U.K. than it is in the U.S., at least where I was. I would like to see that change so that you can bring really good students together, and really good scholars together, and have them be in an environment where they can be productive and it’s sustainable. Personally, I would like to see something to happen to address global warming. I think that’s the big leadership issue that the world has not dealt with and will have to, one way or the other. Or, I should say, climate change rather than global warming.
Scarpino: What would you like your legacy to be?
Lord: I’ve never thought about that really. I suppose if you ask, the legacy is always in other people, the influence that you have on other people, because they’ll be here when you’re not. The surprising thing in my career is a number of the students that I work are not here. You asked about Mike Rush, Jay Thomas, Karen Maher; they have all passed on.
Scarpino: Two more questions, and then I’ll let you go. You’re giving a talk at noon, is that right?
Scarpino: Is there anything that I should have asked you that I didn’t?
Lord: You should have asked me about my personal life and family, which is also so important and allows you to do the stuff that you do. I’ve been married to Rosalie Hall for almost twenty years now, and knew her as a colleague before then. So, that’s always been a really positive source of support and encouragement. I have two great kids that I’m really proud of. They have good lives of their own, so that was a challenge, but it’s worked out okay.
Scarpino: Raising children is a challenge.
Scarpino: Is there anything that you want to say that I haven’t given you a chance to say?
Lord: No. Well, just thanks. You’ve been a great interviewer, a great listener. You obviously did your homework, and I always appreciate that. I’m happy to spend the time with you.
Scarpino: Likewise. So, while I still have this on, I want to thank you on behalf of myself, the International Leadership Association, and the Tobias Center.
Lord: Okay.(RECORDER TURNS OFF)