Month: June 2015

Leadership Identity Development: Growing Pains of Leadership is a Process

No doubt this study abroad experience was a great experience. Very few students get the opportunity. A percent of a percent to be more precise. But just like anything else in life, it wasn’t all fun and games. There were some struggles; there were some pains; there were some pushbacks; and some people weren’t very happy about the challenges and some people weren’t very happy about the uncomfortability. But that is life. That is leadership.

Boody Sunday - Selma, Alabama
Boody Sunday – Selma, Alabama

The mistake that is made is that people assume leadership is easy. They assume that leadership is this utopia where everyone’s dreams come true and that success is as normal as breathing air. In reality, it ain’t easy at all. It’s hard. It’ difficult. The best leaders fail and they fail quite a bit. But in that failure comes experience and wisdom. Was Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama in 1965 a success? Are those people on the ground, being beaten, not leaders? Did they not sacrifice? Did they not fail? Is that failure or is that success? No doubt it is pain and suffering. They struggled. And as a consequence, they suffered through leadership.

Ultimately, the sacrifice, pain, and suffering those leaders endured in Selma, Alabama paid off with civil rights policies and additional opportunities for American men and women, their children, and their children’s children. But does this mean that they did not fail on the first try or fail on subsequent tries? Make no mistake, they failed, they struggled, and through that failure and struggle came determination and fortitude.

One may say that there is not enough failure; one may say there is not enough struggle. Perhaps that is correct. The world’s not an easy place. In baseball, it is believed that a player should make as many mistakes as possible in practice in hopes of having a good game. Great games are rare. There is nothing hyperbolic about this reality of leadership. It is only hyperbolic if you just moved out of your parents’ house. It is only hyperbolic if you’ve obtain incredible grades throughout your entire education all the way up through college. It is only hyperbolic if you want everyone to be your friend. How is that failure? How is that a struggle? A leader does not need everyone to be his or her friend, but a leader does need to realize that leadership is a process that happens over and over again no matter the age or experience of the leader. Leadership is a complex and dynamical process because the world is a complex and dynamical place. No doubt things can be simple, but that is easy and not very intersting.

To create an academic component for this argument, there are six components of what is called the Leadership Identity Development model; that is, awareness, exploration/engagement, leader identified/leader differentiated, generativity, and integration/synthesis. Are the exact definitions and specifics for each component important? No! Not for this article. What is important is the understanding that leadership is a process and through that process, experience is accumulated. With respect to most leadership theories, the Leadership Identity Development model is fairly complex and it allows for complexity, which is more representative of the real world. It allows for an intersectionality that is more representative of the real world. It allows for a process, and make no mistake, leadership is a process in the real world. But not every leadership interaction is complex. Some are simple. The theory allows for this as well.

American Grandmother, Harriet Tubman
American Grandmother, Harriet Tubman – Photo by Modern Servant Leader

To reiterate, leadership is hard. It is difficult. It takes courage and fortitude. A leader must be willing to make difficult decisions and reap the benefits of those decisions or suffer the consequences of those decisions. A leader must also be willing to accept responsibility for his or her actions. A leader must be willing to promote and develop those under her charge. A leader must be willing take care of her people by ensuring their needs and safety and upward mobility. Some of those types of elements of leadership were touched upon in class, they resided in the readings, but they were missed in totality. But no matter the amount of the absorption of the theories or the number of reflections, they are just theories and reflections until they are put into practice.

The practice of leadership is messy. It is ugly. Rarely does theory of leadership work the way it is supposed to. Leadership is not rosie. Leadership often involves conflict. This very point is often missed. Theory seems like a good idea at the time, but then humans get involved and screw it all up. Failure occurs and then the whole thing is thrown for a loop. The whole thing goes to hell. How does someone rectify the situation? Experience. There is no magic answer. Even the best of the best leaders, those identified leaders according to the Leadership Identity Development model, fail, and sometimes they fail miserably. But experience is potent enough to dampen some of the affects of failure. Unfortunately, there is a down side to experience.

Experience is something that just can’t be taught. It’s experience. Experience takes time and patience. It just happens through repetition. Mistakes need to be made, hopefully nobody dies, and then the next time, when everything works out, genius happens. Experience allowed for anticipation and a correct response because of the anticipation. But that anticipation happened because of the failure that came before. Then an aha! moment occurred. Holy shit! That worked. Yes! It worked. But don’t expect that to happen on the first try. Success on the first try is rare. Don’t expect that to happen every single time. And depending on the industry or area of practice, don’t expect that to happen often.

Fred Hampton, Civil Rights leader
Fred Hampton, Civil Rights leader

As an example, for almost 4 centuries, American leaders, some known and some unknown, have been struggling against the American institutionalization of oppression. Some have been beaten, some have been raped, and some have been killed, i.e., Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, and Fred Hampton. Some leaders have been slaves and some leaders have been free women and men. Some leaders came from wealth and some leaders came from poverty. But despite their differences in origin, and despite their failures and against all odds, they endured. Not because they wanted to but because they had to. There were no medals at the end.

They did not have any leadership theories. They learned from those who came before. They learned through books; they learned through proximity; and they learned from conversation. They learned through interactions. And most importantly, they learned through failure. They learned from the process. Ultimately, they were willing to sacrifice everything for an idea, even their own lives. Remember, if leadership was easy, everyone would do it.

In the end, be empathetic, be loyal, and be humble. Be willing to take responsibility for your actions. Hold yourself accountable. Be willing to learn and learn as much as you can, and then learn some more. Learn from your elders. A leader can never learn enough. Be willing to sacrifice if need be. Be willing to fail. Failure is important and humbling. Sometimes failure can be rewarding. That is a topic for another conversation (See Harriet Tubman and her willingness to fail at following the law). Be willing to admit your failure. This demonstrates honesty and integrity. Be willing to confront conflict. Embrace it. Conflict tends to weed out those who are not willing to sacrifice. And most importantly, always take care of your people. These are some of the values that will guide you through the trials and tribulations, through the ups and downs, and through the failures. These are some of the values that will guide you through the growing pains of leadership and into the right.


Södra Ljunga: Photo Elicitation


When I first heard about the opportunity to visit Sweden through the Global Leadership Study Abroad Program, I knew I had to at least apply. For my entire life, Sweden was viewed as a pilgrimage in my family. My grandmother spoke of it; my aunts and uncles spoke of it; my cousins spoke of it. The opportunity to be able to go and see the land of my ancestors on my paternal grandfather’s side was virtually the most important opportunity of my life. I had to take advantage of seeing Småland myself.

I pondered quite a bit about what I would find before departing for Sweden. During my time in Stockholm, I pondered quite a bit about what I would find in Södra Ljunga. I even thought at one point that I wouldn’t make it down south. I wasn’t sure if I had time to head south to Småland. After I made the executive decision to go, I wondered if I would actually find the location of where my family resided. I wondered if I would actually find the family that had been left behind. They would be the decendents of Sven’s younger sister, Karolina. If I found them, what would I say? There were a lot of questions and possibilities running through my head.

The following three pictures are a small part of what I experienced during my last weekend in Sweden. I did a lot and I did a lot of thinking. There were lots of emotions and I often pondered how this trip would change me during my journey. Mainly, I tried to remain humble and take it in stride. I tried not to expect too much and attempted to associate my experience in Södra Ljunga, Kronoberg, Småland with my views of the world. I was not sure what I would find, but what I did found was astonoshing.

The Castle of Jönköping 

The Castle of
The Castle of Jönköping – North of Jönköping

I am a modern abolitionist. I am heavily influenced by Tim Wise. He helped me to see my own privilege. He is the main reason why I am heading towards an exploration of introspection. I am also influenced by America’s grandfather, Frederick Douglass, and America’s grandmother, Harriet Tubman. Malcolm is dear to me and I appreciate Louis’ energy and passion for the struggle. And of course, Stokely and Angela are the fire that resides in me. But I am also a scientist.

Systems science is my discipline; urban dynamics is my field. Ed Dillon, mathematician, changed my life by introducing me to Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, the father of calculus. Jay Forrester, systems scientist, introduced me to my field and the prospect of my future. It is truly a gift. And I am forever indebted to him for a book he wrote more than 50 years ago. Of course, I currently have the privilege of working with some special people – people who support the intersectionality of my work in science and social justice. Their names will become salient as I progress in my writings and as I progress in my field. This combination and intersectionality provides me with a very interesting view of the world. But this is not my first exploration of my journey into leadership.

Are you familiar with the Leadership Identity Development (LID) model? It is a complex leadership theory. Well, it is fairly complex for a leadership theory. Most of the leadership theories are linear. Of course, most practitioners in leadership theory don’t have systems training, so it is understandable. But I digress. LID is comprised of 6 main components: awareness, exploration/engagement, leader identified, leader differentiated, generativity, and integration/synthesis. I won’t get into the meat and potatoes of the theory, but the theory is good at explaining the process of leadership in a fairly complex way. It recognizes that there are several things going on at once in this dynamical world.

For example, I have been a leader in several different careers including the military and baseball. But although I have been a leader in those areas, I am becoming a leader in my respective fields of systems science and social justice, my intersectionality. If I were to identify my current location of systems scientist and social justice writer (and I hope to add speaker), I would say that I exist at exploration/engagement. But perhaps I am not far from leader identified? I could be between the two as well. The model does allow for that prospect. Of course, I endeavor to be a leader and to take on that responsibility. I endeavor to be at the integration/synthesis of the intersectionality of systems science and social justice. But I will remain humble and disciplined, and continue to prepare myself and continue to head towards my destination. I won’t complete my journey towards my ultimate goal of leadership by the end of my trip to Södra Ljunga. That’s impossible. Something like that takes year. But I will find out more about myself and my origins in Södra Ljunga. I will find out more about myself and it will become a part of my identity as I search for the birth place of my great-great grandfather, Sven Alfred.

Södra Ljunga

Skogsdal, Sven's boyhood home, near Södra Ljunga
Skogsdal, Sven’s boyhood home, near Södra Ljunga

Indeed, traveling south to Småland, specifically Södra Ljunga, is a pilgrimage. It is a pilgrimage into my roots, into my past. What would I find? On the afternoon of Sunday, June 7th, and at the suggestion of my new friends in Södra Ljunga, I decided to attend the 2 pm church service in Kånna at the Kånna kyrka. It was a beautiful service in Swedish. There was a baptism. It was deeply emotional for me. There I was, in this more than 1000 year old church, experiencing a ritual that Sven experienced more than 150 years ago. It was truly Swedish. Moreover, I hadn’t been to church in years.

Based off of my paperwork, I thought I was in the correct church. When I approached Jonas, the gentleman with the black trousers and the priest at Kånna kyrka, after the service, I showed him my paperwork and he and I were off to the races. Although it was a cloudy, cool, and windy day, it was a beautiful day. We found Sven’s house. Each person we met during our journey that day was truly amazing. They made me feel at home and I truly felt it. Here I was in Södra Ljunga for a little less than 48 hours and I had already found the boyhood home of Sven and his brothers and sisters. It was amazing. It was surreal. It was a small house that resided upwind from the fields below. It was the home of a poor Swedish family in the middle 19th century.


Södra Ljunga Kyrka
Södra Ljunga Kyrka

I knew this part of the journey would be the most difficult. What you see pictured to the left was the church directly across the road to the Hostel I stayed in over the weekend. Although it is not the same church (Kyrka) that Sven, his brothers and sisters, and his parents attended, it is nonetheless similar and very much in the same area. My ancestors, Sven’s family, were Baptists. This is a Lutheran church. During the middle part of the 19th century, they were discriminated against by the Swedish state church, the Lutheren church, because of their religious beliefs. As Jonas, the Lutheran priest and person who helped me to find the home of my ancestors and what had happened to my great-great aunt Karolina, stated, the Baptists at the time were viewed as radicals. They were looked down upon and were definitely the outgroup. And sometimes, Baptists girls and women were deported from the area and out of the county.

During my visit to Södra Ljunga, I wondered why Karolina’s family never contacted us. Why was this such a mystery? I did not wonder this before I arrived in Södra Ljunga, but only after I arrived. This is because the Swedes I met who had contact with their American relatives were very excited about it. They were extremely proud of it. The people who had not found their American relatives or had not been contacted by their American relatives were bummed out about it. This made me wonder if Karolina had ever married, and if so, did she have children. Surely her children would have known that their mother’s siblings had left for the United States.

I did not find her decendents before I left. But Jonas told me he would keep looking on his end and he did. A day after I arrived back in the states, I received an email from him

Got a subscription to view the Church records online a hour after you left. Got this information about Carolina and her parents: Carolina stayed in Sweden. Father died 1893. Mother died 1897. In 1897 she got married (civil wedding, no state church wedding – baptist!) 41 years old and moved 10 km north of Skogsdala to Boarp Stakagård. She herself died in 1923 of “old age” (!) and probably dementia. No children with husband August Göransson. Will try to get more info on her husband August, etc

All Good Things

In my first posting, the Minnesota Swede blog page, I stated

My hope is that I will be able to visit not just the birth place of Sven, in Smaland, Sweden, which is in Southern Sweden, but that I will also get an opportunity to meet the descendents of my great-great Aunt Karolina, Sven’s sister, who remained in Sweden.

During my trip to Södra Ljunga, I found more than I could have imagined. Although I did not find the birth place of Sven, I found his boyhood home, literally. He resided there from the age of 8 to the age of 19 when he immigrated to the United States. I found out that Karolina did not have any children. This was unfortunate. But we are still the descendents of those who once resided in Skogsdal. I also found a bit more than what I intended to find.

As I told Jonas and his wife, “Even if I don’t find Karolina’s children, my cousins, I still found family.” And I meant it. Thomas and Berit, my Hostel hosts, Louise, Niclas, Jonas, and all of the other wonderful people who helped me have become a part of my Swedish family. They helped me to realize my dream of visiting the home of my great-great grandfather. They helped me understand my family here in the states a bit better as well. There is such cultural continuity between my family and those in Södra Ljunga.

I got an opportunity to eat with Niclas. He invited me into his home for futbol and food. I got an opportunity to Fika with Louise and her son Justice. She and I chatted about a great many things. Jonas invited me to dinner with his wife and kids, and we did Fika afterwards. Like Louise, Jonas and I chatted about a great many things. In each case, I felt like I was home. In each case, I added to my growth and identity. In each case, it was All Good Things.

Feminism: Differentiating Sweden and the United States

There is no doubt that Sweden is a social democracy. It proposes policies to perpetuate the upward mobility of women in economic vitality, political representation, and social being. As Eric Sundström, political strategist for Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström, stated during a Q&A session with students of the Global Leadership Study Abroad Program from Iowa State University at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on May 21, 2015,

How can you heal a country when men are the only ones involved in the peace process?

Eric proposed this rhetorical question in response to how policies are argued, proposed, passed and applied by mostly men and in some instances by all men in the reconstruction of war torn countries. But does this question only apply to war torn countries?

Eric further stated, “Sweden practices a feminist foreign policy agenda.” Of course, this is very different rhetoric that is discussed during political American discourse in the United States. Imagine a politician or political strategist in the United States exclaiming support for or proposing feminist policy. Not likely in today’s highly partisan and contengious American political environment. But this does not mean that feminism is not a valid or a worth while philosophy.

To compare, does the question of “How can you heal a country when men are the only ones involved in the peace process?” apply to the United States? If one takes into account and recognizes that the 19th amendment was not passed until 1920, 143 years into American history, then one must at the very least acknowledge that this question may relate to the United States as well.

Riksdag Session
Riksdag Session

Historically, Sweden and the United States are very different countries. The United States ratified legislation supporting women’s suffrage in August of 1920; whereas, women obtained that right in 1921 in Sweden. In addition, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of a woman’s right to choose in 1973 in Roe v. Wade. In 1974, Sweden passed the Abortion Act, which gave women the right to choose. In both cases, the right to political access and the right to choose are comparable in dates, but despite this, the divergence of the philosophies of the countries are still very different, which has already been established by the feminist position of foreign policy by Sweden.

Another example of the differences of philosophy and how those differences are perpetuated is how government is structured. The United States has a federal government structure where power is shared between the federal government and the states, which is explained by the 10th amendment of the United States Constitution, and Sweden has a unitary government. In this form of government, the central government creates and codifies the policies of the country. In short, Sweden’s form of government does not create or allow for an environment where there is a push and pull between the central government and the states.

However, this unitary system of government does allow a potential for greater represenatation by women in a shorter period of time. This is because the citizens of Sweden vote for the parties, not individuals. Swede’s vote every four years in local, county, and national elections. Moreover, the parties decide who will represent the party and thus the voters in the Riksdag (parliament). Because of this freedom of choice to choose who will serve, the parties themselves have greater control over who will serve and thus if more woman will serve or not serve. In the case of Sweden, the participation of women at all levels of government in Sweden has been trending towards fifty percent, which includes the recent 2014 elections.

In contrast, the United States congress is comprised of less than twenty percent of women, although the population is more than fifty percent women. Moreover, the United States is ranked 84th in leadership for women. This is quite a difference from Sweden. But what does it mean?

United States Congress
United States Congress – Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

There is a genious behind Jefferson’s constitution and how the document has been able to perpetuate and support the emergence of political equality in the United States despite the dark origins and history of the United States and despite the original oppressive, dichotomous, intent of the document itself. United States citizens are allowed to vote in city, county, state, and federal elections; United States citizens are allowed to vote for the candidate of their choice despite limited options; United States citizens are allowed to question the authority of the United State government; and United States citizens are allowed to question the motives and legitimacy of their representatives, including the president of the United States. United States citizens are allowed to overturn constitutional amendments.

Despite all of this, Americans choose, for the most part, not to elect women to represent them in government. Maybe Americans do not want women as representatives? Maybe Americans are not even conscious of such decisions? Maybe Americans are not self-actualized to this existence? Maybe Americans are not self-actualized to this continuous habit of voting mostly for men? And most importantly, maybe Americans are not aware of the value of women? In Sweden, this political event to vote for women or men is not a choice. This decision is made by the parties and the parties have decided that those women who decide to serve the public will be supported.

Is there a difference between Sweden and the United States when it comes to women in mid-level and executive positions in the market place? According to Alice H. Eagly in Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders, there is a difference between the relative number of women at the mid-level management position versus the executive level in the United States. As Alice explains,

Women’s employment in the United States has shown the greatest increase in managerial and administrative occupations…[There is an] increase for the years 1983 through 2006, with a leveling off at around 42 percent…A substantial number of women hold middle management positions in large corporations, but relatively few are executives…women occupy 16 percent fo the executive positions [of the Fortune 500].

Sweden in this case is not much different. What is different about Sweden is the acknowledgment of the difference, its self-actualization, and what to do about it, its solution.

Oscar Ernerot of LO-Sweden during a visit with the students of the Global Leadership program at Iowa State University stated that women in Sweden are well represented at the middle management level but are still greatly lagging behind at the high levels of leadership. Oscar even recognized its own imbalance at its board level, which is 75 percent male. Oscar also stated that gender is at the foundation of their philosophy and thus the LO takes a feminist position.

What solution does Oscar and LO propose? They are admittedly not sure. They recognize that women stall at the middle management level. They recognize that male leaders take on younger males, or other males, to prepare for leadership, which perpetuates the male pipeline of leadership to the top. They also recognize that this mentorship amongst men takes place at greater rates, which is one of the many reasons for the continuous discrepancy in leadership rates between men and women at executive positions. The question is what to do about it. The LO is not sure at this time and they are okay with it because they have not stopped looking for a solution, or solutions.

So what does this mean for feminism? What does this mean for feminism in the United States? Clearly, feminists have many allies in Sweden. The Swedish Trade Union Confederation, LO-Sweden, which is a major labor organization in Sweden and an influential labor organization abroad in at least a dozen countries takes a feminist position. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sweden declares and practices a feminist agenda. In addition, Magnus Björk, External Cooperation Advisor of Forum Syd, at a meeting with the students from the Global Leadership Program, Iowa State University, stated

Sweden officially has a feminist foreign policy…[For example, when it comes to Burma and its reemergence], who is sitting at the table? 99.9 percent of the [participants] are men.

Needless to say, Magnus and Forum Syd take a feminist position. However, in the United States, feminism is a dirty word. Feminists are either viewed as “shrill, shrieking shrews,” and/or emasculators of men. In addition, feminists are viewed as being lesbians. First, this implies that lesbians are wretched like feminists as if feminists are also wretched. And second, the connotation perpetuates further ingroup and outgroup dynamics which perpetuates an unsafe and depressive environment for those feminists and members of the LBGT community. It further negates political legitimacy and philosophies against the system. In other words, feminists are not a part of the mainstream and lesbians are not a part of the mainstream; therefore, they are both leftist radical movements bent on the distruction of the system of American freedom. This conversation does not happen in Sweden which says a lot about the United States.

A Decades Fight
A Decades Fight

Today in the United States, Roe v. Wade is being challenged in several states and indirectly. Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi, and North Dakota are current examples of this challenge; Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin along with other state governors have helped pass “Right-to-Work” legislation limiting the power of unions in their respective states and across the United States; and women as legislative representatives in government is more than 25 percent higher in Sweden than it is in the United States. According to these facts, it would appear as though Sweden and the United States are moving in different directions despite the comparable dates of feminist policy in women’s suffrage in the early 1920’s and a woman’s right to choose in the middle 1970’s.

If a basic definition of feminism is to create an evironment of economic vitality, political representation and autonomy, and social being for women, then does the United States qualify as a feminist country? The answer is no, at least not in totality and certainly not at the federal level. The United States government has not declared a feminist policy; Sweden has. Roe v. Wade is being challenged. Of course, it can be challenged constitutionally, and that is important and a constitutional right, but it is anti-feminist position. To perpetuate this difference even further, Sweden has a topnotch paternity leave program for both parents – 480 days divided between both parents. As Eric Sundström argues, there is no viable counter economic argument against paternity leave. In the short run, it cost money; but in the long run, it pays dividends.

So what does this mean for the United States? Is it possible for the United States to practice a feminist policy? Unfortunately, this is not possible in today’s current political environment. Then is it possible for a state like Minnesota or Oregon to practice a feminist policy? Either state possibly could but it would take a further shift in zeitgeist and political courage. Could cities such as Minneapolis, Seattle, or Portland take on feminist public policies? This is probably more likely in the near future. In the case of Minneapolis, Mayor Betsy Hodges is a trained sociologist and is more than likely aware of such suffrage issues. She would also be more than likely to receive the support of the voters of Minneapolis, which tends to be extremely progressive in practice.

Finally, it has been shown that many men in Sweden take the feminist position. This idea may seem a bit weird to some readers. That is understandable. But being a man and being a feminist can exist at the same time. They are not dichotomous. This position would throw a wrench into the argument that feminism is wretched and emasculating. Why would a man want to be a part of that type of movement if he is going to be emasculated? Is he not arguing against his own position, welfare, and being? Why would he want to be associated with those “shrill, shrieking shrews?”

No doubt that it would not be easy for a man, especially a United States citizen, to take the feminist position, to adopt a feminist philosophy, to practice a feminist policy. It would take great courage for this man to espouse this philosophy. It would take great courage for him to argue this philosophy, not only in writing, but in speaking. He would need to expect to receive great criticism and ridicule from individuals, and media and political organizations. He would need to expect some unpopularity in the public realm. He would be loathed, disliked, detested. He would need to be willing to sacrifice. Maybe he would be denounced by his family and friends? Maybe he would be expelled from certain places of privilege and organizations and opportunities? Or maybe not. Maybe there is an advantage. Strength, fortitude, and determination are required.

Nonetheless, this path would not be easy, but it has never been easy. Women know this best. That’s why it’s called feminism. Men have never needed a suffrage philosophy. This is because the system has been constructed for them and this fact can be illustrated by all of the presidents of the United States, all of the Chief Justices of the United States, all of the eligible voters before 1920, and so and so forth. There are numerous examples of androcentrism. But this man would need to recognize his privilege; this man would need to put aside his privilege. This man would need to become a new, modern Abolitionist.





Emotional Intelligence: Photo Elicitation


Emotional intelligence is a fairly new scientific hypothesis. Although the idea emerged a little less than a century ago, it is only recently that it was proposed as a testable hypothesis and model. Instead of quatifying what are considered the hard skills that are associated with mathematics and science, as is the case with IQ, it proposes to quantify the soft skills such as empathy, relationship building, accurate self awareness, and adaptibility. Of course, emotional intelligence is scrutinized by supporters of the intellience quotient test. It is argued that it is impossible to quantify emotions.

For example, how can one quantify relationship management skills like building bonds, teamwork and collaboration, influencing and developing others? How can someone quantify self management skills like trustworthiness, concientiousness, adaptability, and achievement? It is safe to assume that most people would agree that these ideas can be qualified. That is more than likely not an issue. However, quantifying these ideas and actions is quite a different story. There is disagreement if emotions can be quantified. But that is not the purpose of this article. Throughout the next three sections, examples of emotional intelligence will be explored in three areas of industry in Stockholm, Sweden: the Public School System, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and LO-Sweden. As a conclusion, an argument will be proposed that involves men voicing and supporting feminism as an American policy to help perpetuate the upward mobility and success of women in the market place.

Public School System

Matt Johnson (left) and Lee Orberson (right) - May 20, 2015
Matt Johnson (left) and Lee Orberson (right) – May 20, 2015

Lee Orberson served seven years in the United States Army. He spent four years with the infantry and three years with the Rangers. Lee was born in Sweden, but his father is from Kentucky. In fact, Lee enlisted in the United States Army through a recruiter in europe. After the military, Lee returned to Sweden to finish his education. College is subsidized by the government in Sweden. In other words, it is not free per se. Rather, it is a pass it forward system. Anyway, Lee became a high school teacher – History/Geography – but eventually moved into administration. Today, Lee is the Regional Superintendent of public schools in Stockholm, Sweden and his emotional intelligence runs extremely high.

During a visit to Stockholm’s public school administration office by the Iowa State University Global Leadership Study Abroad Program, Lee was asked what the difference was between leadership in the military context, specifically the United States military, and leadership in the educational context? Lee replied that people are people and that people deserve to be treated like human beings no matter the context. He agreed and recognized that the United States military is a staunchly androcentric environment, but despite that fact, people respond to courtesy and respect. As Lee illustrates,

[The] psychology is rougly the same for productive leadership between the military and education.

In other words, Lee recognized his social awareness in the form of organizational awareness and service orientation; that is, the difference between the military and education. But he also recognized his own self management and how he treated different people in different environments and how people responded to that empathy and courtesy.

To elucidate Lee’s emotional intelligence further, Stephanie McMillan, undergraduate student in the program, asked him how he tailored the teaching styles and classroom environments to different students with different abilities. Lee responded,

Inclusion, diversity and planning. Plan for the students you have, not for the students you don’t have.

Inspirational and rational words from an inspirational and rational leader. Using his relationship management skills, a quadrant of emotional intelligence, Lee focuses on developing the students he has, the students his teachers have, not the students they don’t have. Within this context, Lee’s focus is “[i]nclusion, diversity, and planning.” He is clearly aware of himself and he is aware of others and their differences to him and to the other students, teachers and administrators. Lee accepts the people around him. It is his empathy that facilitates a successful environment for all of those who participate in it. Finally, Lee is aware of the criticisms of the Stockholm public school system, he respects those criticisms, but to him, it is about the equity and the equality for the children and it is the children and the environment they grow up in that seems to be the most important to him, no matter their background.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Eric Sundstrom (left) and Matt Johnson (right) - May 21, 2015
Eric Sundstrom (left) and Matt Johnson (right) – May 21, 2015

As Eric Sundström, political strategist for Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström, stated, Sweden’s foreign policy is a feminist policy. This of course is a very different way of thinking about politics especially for those who are representives in politics and for those who think about the philosophy of politics. Would an American politician or a strategist, an American male politician or strategist for that matter, ever state without regard for publication that the current government’s position is that of feminism? Clearly this is a different point of view. But does this point of view consist of emotional intelligence?

Consider this, emotional intelligence consists of self awareness, self management, social awareness, and self management. In Eric’s position, he takes the position of women despite being a man. A person might say, “What’s in it for him?” But that is precisely the point. Thank you for proving it. Eric in his statement illustrates empathy for women and for what they have had to endure throughout human history all the way back, to at least, the dawn of human civilization. Eric understands that women in the United States were not given the right to vote until the 19th amendment in 1920. He is an avid and admitted political junky of American politics and he is cognizant that women in Sweden did not gain the right to vote until 1921. But as Eric understands it, suffrage does not end with legislation. Views on women are embedded in cultural norms. As he rhetorically proposed during a sitdown – question and answer session at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

How can you heal a country when men are the only ones involved in the peace process? There is no peace with the [continued] oppression of women.

Today, no more than 20 percent of the United States congress, in either house, is represented by women. In Sweden, it is less than 50 percent in parliament, the Riksdag. But whereas the term feminism itself is not very well understood in the United States, it is embraced and applied as policy in Sweden. Indeed, the idea of this application should not only be mind-blowing to the American reader, but it should be difficult to comprehend. This is because the relationship between feminism and American politics lacks empathy of the plight of women and subsequently an ignorance of history.

In Eric’s quote, the focus is on including women in the agenda setting and policy making process. In emotional intelligence language, this is relationship management; that is, inspiring women and developing women as future leaders. Indeed, American politicians will state that there ought to be more women in leadership positions, but will they refer to inspiration and development as a necessary component of the peace process? Will they acknowledge the legitimacy of feminism as a viable alternative to the highly androcentric culture that is the American culture?

The Swedish Trade Union Confederation

Veronica Middlebrook (left), Oscar Ernerot (center), and Matt Johnson (right) - May 26, 2015
Veronica Middlebrooks (left), Oscar Ernerot (center), and Matt Johnson (right) – May 26, 2015

Oscar Ernerot is the Ombudsman for LO-Sweden; that is, the Swedish Trade Union Confederation. The LO-Sweden is a labor movement organization that involves itself in the welfare and solidarity of workers in Sweden and abroad. Its focus is to first provide employment to Swedish workers with the hopes of providing a better life. It also focuses on the education, continuing education, and enrichment of its workers. As Oscar conveyed during a visit by the students of the Iowa State University Global Leadership Study Abroad Program, Gender is at the foundation of the Confederations’ policies; thus, LO willingly takes a feminist position like that of the Swedish government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

When asked by the author of Urban Dynamics if the LO was aware of and acknowledged the discrepancy of representation between men and women at the board level of its very own organization, three men and one woman, Oscar strongly agreed with the observation, displaying self awareness of his own organization, and stated that one of the main missions of the LO was to correct that unequal respresentation.

The LO recognizes its imbalance at the board level. They also recognize that women stall at the the mid-management level as author Alice Eagly explains and illustrates in her book Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About how Women Become Leaders. The Confederation is well aware of this fact. They also recognize that male leaders take on other males to prepare for leadership; men usually, and for the most part, do not take on female apprentices. They recognize that this takes place at greater rates and is a part of the continued perpetuation of male leaders in the work place. The question is what to do about it. Honestly, the LO is not sure what to do about it at this point and time, although they are exploring solutions and will continue to look for solutions.

From this exchange, it is clear that The LO’s emotional intelligence encompasses self awareness in the form of accurate self awareness; its emotional intellignece encompasses self management in the form of the drive to succeed; its emotional intelligence encompasses social awareness in the form of empathy and organizational awareness; and its emotional intelligence encompasses relationship management in the form of developing others. Although the focus is all employees, the upward mobility and success of women is specifically important because of the historical oppression and depression of women.

Final Thoughts

Emotional intelligence skills are highly sought after in the current market place. A person high in emotional intelligence is twice as likely to be hired than a person deficient in intelligence quotient. And the evidence supports this need. In addition, there is a monetary incentive for EI as well. Travis Bradberry points out in his article in Forbes,

Of all the people we’ve studied at work, we’ve found that 90% of top performers are also high in emotional intelligence. On the flip side, just 20% of bottom performers are high in emotional intelligence. You can be a top performer without emotional intelligence, but the chances are slim. Naturally, people with a high degree of emotional intelligence make more money—an average of $29,000 more per year than people with a low degree of emotional intelligence. The link between emotional intelligence and earnings is so direct that every point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1,300 to an annual salary. These findings hold true for people in all industries, at all levels, in every region of the world. We haven’t yet been able to find a job in which performance and pay aren’t tied closely to emotional intelligence.

If the argument is feminist policies for the perpetuation and proponderance of women in the workplace, then emotional intelligence must be a part of that argument. As the Swedish examples have illustrated, the inclusion and diversity of women in the workplace is paramount to the success of a society. The more women there are in the market place, the greater the opportunity for women to become leaders; the more men who support women, the greater and deeper level of emotional intelligence that will exist in a culture. And as a consequence, the children of today and of tomorrow will experience a greater level of existence and, thus, happiness; the women of today and of tomorrow will experience a greater level of responsibility and leadership and, thus, happiness; and the workers of today and of tomorrow will experience a greater level of opportunity and stability in employment, a greater level of economic viability and upward mobility, and a greater level of worker solidarity no matter the industry and, thus, happiness. However, the question remains, are there American men willing to step up, take responsibility, take on the feminist philosophy, and facilitate a movement for women’s equity and equality in the United States? Perhaps emotional intelligence can be a part of that movement?


Emotional Intelligence: Baltimore, Ferguson, and the Thug

Baltimore, Maryland, 1968
Baltimore, Maryland, 1968 – Photo Courtesy of ABC News

In the media recently, there has been much conversation about the shooting deaths, of young American men by white police officers in Baltimore and Ferguson. To the perspective of some, this is an example of race baiting, reverse racism, or both. This is because some believe that the deaths of those young men – Michael Brown of Ferguson and Freddie Gray of Baltimore – are being used to assassinate the character and attack the credibility of police officers in Baltimore, Ferguson, and across the nation. Moreover, they believe these events are rare, unimportant, and are used to drum up feelings from the past. As Harry Houck, retired New York police detective exclaimed when asked about how to move forward from such police killings of young American men in the cities in a CNN debate, “What ever happened a thousand years ago, stop, alright? Let’s move from here. Let’s get to the discussion.” To others, it is just not that simple. It is more complex than Mr. Houck proposes and to pretend otherwise is just irresponsible. More importantly, to others, it is a continuation of an unjust experience in the United States.

To those who experience systemic forces on a daily basis, and to those in the social justice movement, it is a continuation of the black codes of the northern United States during the 19th century, where whites attempted to prevent the economic viability and upward mobility of free American men, women, and children, where whites successfully prevented American men from participating in the representation process as either a voter or a candidate, and where whites successfully acculturated African men, women and children into a eurocentric culture; it is a continuation of exclusive laws, those in constitutional power that desired to maintain the oppression and depression of the subordinate American group, and the subsequent slave patrols who enforced such laws, during the early and middle 18th century; and it is a continuation of the black laws and Jim Crow after reconstruction and how those constitutionally supported laws perpetuated the advancement of the dominant group over all other groups in the United States and well into the 20th century. There are two perspectives, at the very least, and, indeed, the historical context is absolutely factual in the case of one.

Emotional Intelligence Diagram
Emotional Intelligence Diagram

Immediately, one may ask, “What does Ferguson, Baltimore, and the term ‘thug’ have to do with emotional intelligence? Clearly the title of this paper is loaded.” For some, Baltimore, Ferguson, and “thug” may correctly correspond with those “blacks” who reside in those urban environments. Thus, they are “thugs” because they are “gangbangers” and they destroy local businesses. For others, Baltimore, Ferguson, and “thug” perpetuate a myth about the residents being “gangbangers” and destroying businesses. This is clearly an oversimplification of the arguments but it is nonetheless the respective arguments. Before the analysis and application of emotional intelligence can be applied to Baltimore and Ferguson, a bit of background on emotional intelligence is needed to prevent any misunderstanding.

Emotional intelligence is about considering the circumstances of another person and considering the components of the self. In other words, it is about the self-actualization of one’s self and the relationships that person has with others in the system. An example of the self can be illustrated by one’s own privilege as a straight, white man who is perceived Christian and the subsequent awareness, feelings, and actions that may follow because of that awareness of privilege. Another example of the self is how one may view their own plight. As Harriet Tubman once so eloquently and honestly stated, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed more if only they new they were slaves.” Ms. Tubman’s point, those slaves were not aware of their own existence as slaves. In emotional intelligence terms, those slaves lacked emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment, and confidence, which is completely understood considering the circumstances and power dynamics of the institutional structure and the physical and psychological depression they experienced and faced from one generation to the next.

Emotional intelligence, which can be traced as a fundamental idea to the early 20th century in E.L. Thorndike’s Social Intelligence model, is about self awareness and social awareness. Daniel Goleman, author of the 1995 book Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, proposes that there are four categories of recognizing and acting on one’s own emotional intelligence. First, there is the self; that is, self awareness and self management. Second, there is the social; that is, social awareness and relationship management. Although these sectors are broken down into two halves, one of the self and one of the social, they ought to be taken together as interacting agents. They ought to be viewed as dynamical, non-linear systems interactions.

Continuing with Harriet Tubman’s example, the other half of the self, self management, can be better understood. Ms. Tubman herself was once a slave. She was born a slave, existed as a slave, but recognized her own plight and the oppression of the slave master and the environment itself. As a response, she freed herself from the bonds of chattel. In one action of defiance and American patriotism, she displayed self awareness and self management; that is, the recognition of her existence and the action to do something about it. Of course, moving one person out of a depressed state is much easier than moving an entire population out of a depressed state, and Mr. Tubman was well aware of this very point.

The other side of the emotional intelligence model is the social aspect. That is, social awareness and relationship management. Social awareness is the application of empathy, organizational awareness, and service orientation. Relationship management is the application of building bonds and teamwork, of being an inspirational leader and influencing others, and of being a catalyst for change.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an example of these two components of emotional intelligence. He was very aware of his own organization the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the role it would potentially play in the American civil rights movement. He was, obviously, not only empathetic of the struggle of those disenfranchised, but he was also empathetic of those who wished to hurt him and his cohorts in the civil rights struggle, including those white police officers and white vigilante groups that dared to beat, rape, and kill those Americans marching for their constitutional rights on March 7, 1965 – “Bloody Sunday.” Despite this violence, this face of oppression, Dr. King preached non-violence and tolerance.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation

Throughout the civil rights movement, Dr. King recognized the needs of those inside the civil rights movement and those outside the civil rights movement. Many people think that Dr. King was only marching and preaching for those who had and continued to be disenfranchised, but in reality, Dr. King was marching for all Americans, even the vast majority of those white Americans that disagreed with him, and surprisingly, those non-white Americans who disagreed with him. Dr. King understood oppression to be a structural and privileged sickness. He understood that in order to push the envelope for equity and equality, the needs of the oppressed had to be met and the needs of the oppressor had to be anticipated. In other words, he understood that privilege was blinding and in order to achieve a healthy society, the blinders of privilege needed to be taken off once and for all.

In this piece, Harriet Tubman has been used as an example of the self and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been used as an example of the social. Easily, these roles could have been reversed. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. could have been used as an example of the components of the self of emotional intelligence and Harriet Tubman could have been used as an example of the social components of emotional intelligence. This very substitution illustrates the power of Harriet Tubman and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the power of emotional intelligence. But how could this power be applied to Baltimore and Ferguson? How could emotional intelligence be used to improve the plight of the residents of Baltimore and Ferguson? How could emotional intelligence be used to change the conversation concerning those disenfranchised residents of Baltimore, Ferguson, and other cities? How could emotional intelligence be used to curb and change the conversation from a highly privileged and, frankly, ignorant and unproductive exchange to that of a conversation that contains self awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management? How is this possible in today’s highly partisan politics and media?

Can one person refer to another person as a “thug” and still maintain empathy? Does not the very term of “thug” say more about the person using the term to describe another than the person it is designed to describe? In this regard, would not the person using the term “thug” be deficient in empathy? Is not empathy a component of social awareness? Does not emapthy mean “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another?” Wouldn’t this include the plight of others; that is, the economic depression, the lack of political representation, and the appropriation of the social being and one’s history? In other words, is not “thug” a rhetorical tool of oppression? Perhaps the very use of the term “thug” illustrates the prejudice of the person using it towards another.

Thuggee, a group of Thugs, according to the British
Thuggee, a group of Thugs, according to the British – Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

What is meant by “thug?” The etymology of “thug” is not salient in the United States nor does it derive from the United States. The term derives from the Indian subcontinent when colonialism existed; that is, when the British empire occupied the territory. It is an Hindi word that describes “a cheat or swindler.” According to a piece in NewsWeek titled A Brief History of the Word ‘Thug’ the word was appropriated by the British, the occupying force, from the local residents. It was used to degrade and racialize the indigenous population. As Kim Wagner, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, explains in the article

It allowed [the empirialists] to criminalize any kind of indigenous activity as being something that was inherently irrational and politically illegitimate, not different from the way it’s used today. You’re effectively describing them as having no legitimate grievances and just being hoodlums.

Of course, the United States has its own colonial history and prejudice is a large part of that colonialism. It involved the genocide of the indigenous people and the participation in the Atlantic Slave Trade and the subsequent oppressions of other groups as well; for example, the prejudice against those Americans who call their ancestry the middle east or Persia, and the racialization of Islam. So from this perspective, it is easy to see how “thug” can be racialized in conversation without intent. One does not need to be prejudice, or racist in the American way, to use the term in a way that is detrimental or unproductive, because the use of the term unwillingly or willingly perpetuates certain stereotypes of certain Americans from particular groups.

To recall, prejudice is the state of irrational thought and the inexperience of interaction with another person or group. In this case, have those in the media experienced the daily life and circumstances of those Americans in Baltimore and Ferguson? Do they understand the historical context of the cities and of American history in general? Do those that use the term “thug” understand the economic, political, and social situations of those groups that are disenfranchised? Those disenfranchised groups are the very same that are being referred to as “thugs.” It is their parents and grandparents who experienced redlining practices; it is their grandparents and great grandparents that experienced lynchings, Jim Crow, and exclusive laws such as black laws; it is their ancestors who experienced American slavery as chattel; and it is their ancestors who experienced the Atlantic Slave Trade in all of its dark glory; the capitalistic industry that ripped generations of Africans from their homeland, 12 to 15 million Africans over the course of 200 years to be exact.

Therefore, would Harriet Tubman and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. really use the term “thug” to refer to the young men and women of Baltimore and Ferguson? Is there a person who would attempt to argue such a point? If emotional intelligence involves perspective taking in the form of self awareness, self management, social awareness, and relationship management, how would it be possible for a person to apply the term “thug” to a group of Americans who’s history encapsulates the intersectionalities and experiences of physical and psychological depressions of more than 400 years? Would that person contain a high level of emotional intelligence?


Matt Johnson is a writer for The Systems Scientist and the Urban Dynamics blog; and is a mathematical scientist. He has also contributed to the Iowa State Daily and Our Black News.

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