Shadow Sides of Money, Meaning & Power

Identify and analyze how money, meaning, and power are regarded broadly and used by organizations

Dialogue Post Week Two: After reviewing the week’s readings on self-serving leadership and corruption, this week’s discussion board asks you to apply this understanding to one of the worst global oil spills in history, the BP oil spill of 2010. Review the Frontline documentary, The Spill, and review other media sources as needed. Elaborate on the reason, from a leadership prospective, why the BP oil spill happened. Suppose you could hold a leadership role among BP’s “Turtles,” what would you do? Can you propose an alternative sequence of events, from a BP leadership or regulatory body perspective, that could have prevented the distaster? Discuss if there are evident cases of self-serving, pro-social, or individualistic leadership according to the video.

D w2 1.0D W2 1.2Collaboration Post Week Two: This week’s collaboration builds on the environmental theme by looking at a case that is more recent and impacted less people, but also centered on poor decisions and mismanagement. In a similar tone to the aftermath and handling of Hurricane Kristina, the Flint water crisis raised questions of political interests, race, and socioeconomic class. Review the materials below. How would you evaluate the response of community leaders? Compare this case to the BP oil spill from the perspectives of power and money.

Trounstine, J. (2016, February 8). How racial segregation and political mismanagement led to Flint’s shocking water crisis. The Washington Post. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)

C W 2 1.0C w2 1.1Assignment #2: How do money, meaning, and power become resources for reinforcing destructive leadership? Address each category of money, meaning, and power in your response. How can we treat these resources differently to avoid destructive leadership in the organization? 

Based on what you have learned in your course of studies at CLU, what strategies can you, as a leader, develop or enact to avoid a harmful environment in the workplace?

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Generally, most organizations exist for profit, thus money is a driving force and the sole basis for measuring success (ROI). Meaning is not important to most organizations, unless they are in the social sector and are specifically trying to make a positive change in the world. Some non-profits exist to help others as well, but even then, many organizations lose focus (mainly due to destructive leadership) and meaning gets lost amidst money and power. Power, although not always used for negative purposes, tends to be a psychological incentive for people to increase profit and either keep their position and power or increase it. Power, to me, is an illusion of strength and superiority, and is necessary for those who struggle with identity and self security. These are generally the charismatic leaders that hunger for power or cannot feel valuable without it.

Artifacts one and two show the complete disregard for meaning and people by big business and government organizations, where money is the prime factor for action or inaction. BP focused on saving money, so cost-cutting, neglecting maintenance on equipment and entire facilities was common. In addition, they neglected employee concerns about safety, and they ignored failing equipment incidents which ultimately led to their downfall.

In the Flint water crisis in Michigan, the importance of power and money over people led to failing leadership processes in government agencies which then led to mistakes, issues, cover-ups, and finally the lead poisoning of an entire US region. The utter neglect for people’s health and well-being was blatant in this case while government leadership acted irresponsibly, carelessly and without concern for people. In these two case-studies, money and power were the priority.

Money and power are used by organizations for self-serving agendas versus socially responsible business practices. Human rights are not a matter of importance for organizations such as BP, the Governor of Flint, Michigan and its government agencies. There are many incidents such as these occurring as I write incited many national and international organizations. Many times, governments are involved in the neglect and irresponsible actions for the sake of profit.

I included Assignment # 2 as my final artifact. The paper explains How Money Meaning and Power Reinforce Destructive Leadership. Money, meaning and power all play a role in the psychological make-up of the destructive leader. The intense desire for material things, the personal search for purpose, the unconscious longing to live on after death, and the un-relentless quest to affirm egos by being better than others — all of these components, given susceptible followers and a conducive environment, can drive one toward destructive behavior. Jean Lipman-Blumen and Barbara Kellerman helped us define the toxic/bad leader, and to be aware of why we are drawn to them. This analysis helps us to understand reasons behind why leaders of BP and Flint government agencies behaved the way they did and the key role money and power played in those behaviors. The first step in addressing changing this world view on money and power and the neglect for meaning is by understanding why we adopt these behaviors and perspectives in the first place. If we can go to the source of the problem, we can start to define prevention strategies in the workplace.

I am fully aware of the role money and power play in the world today. I have a good understanding of why, as a result of this program and the resources written by Jean Lipmen-Blumen. I was introduced to Paul Piff’s video on how the mind makes sense of advantage and it helped me to better understand the psychological phenomena that takes place when we feel we have more money than others. Piff’s study shows that our feelings of compassion and empathy decrease while feelings of self-entitlement and self-interest increase. Greed becomes somewhat of a virtue (or that’s how we justify it in our minds) and the pursuit of self-interest is suddenly favorable and even moral. This explains why most leaders are plagued with the desire for money and power, and helps us to to understand why BP and the Flint government made the choices they made. I am now able to articulate why people fall prey to money, power and destructive leaders. I am also now aware of how to avoid and protect myself against these worldly pressures as I now realize they are simply the mind reacting to pressures, and the lack of societal values and morals.


Assess leadership’s ability to affect environmental, political, cultural, and economic issues relevant to money, meaning, and power

Dialogue, Week Three: Building on the themes on meaning and power, organizational structures and hierarchies (or lack there of) can strengthen (or hinder) power dynamics and reinforce organizational values. In this discussion board, discuss Zappos’s holacratic organizational structure and its connection to (1) employee and leader relationships (i.e., power dynamics) and (2) its organizational values, purpose, culture, mission, and vision (i.e., meaning). Imagine and express the potential benefits and challenges of a distributed leadership approach. Reflect on how the Zappos case connects to your own experiences working within organizations and teams.

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We all have the ability to change our own perspectives on money meaning and power and as a result, change environmental, political, cultural and economic issues. People like Ghandi, the Dalai Lama and Mohammed Yunus have shown us the possibilities and what a simple change in meaning can do. We, in our western society, have assigned value to money and power, and we can also change that value, however we don’t realize it. Zappos is a relevant example of changing meaning with structure, whereby people are valued over profit and power. The holocratic model used in organizations is a new way of distributing power, creating team leadership and encouraging and valuing autonomy. The key take-away from studying an organization like Zappos, that is shifting focus from money and power to meaning, is that in the long run, they end up on top in terms of profit, because they focused on people, and in turn, people supported the growth of their business. It is really not rocket science; take care of your customers and your customers will, in turn, take care of you. Zappos has had a lot of success and it is a direct result of their focus on values and ethics and how they are committed to upholding those values and ethics throughout the company. They are a role model for other organizations who are looking to do business the “right” way. Other organizations can shift their focus from money and power to meaning as well, and will reap the same benefits. It comes down to the leaders of the organization and their values, morals and focus. Zappos is a leader of change, I hope to see more and more organizations conducting business in this manner.

The change in me personally and professionally is that I realize there is hope. Companies like Patagonia, Zappos, the Grameen Bank and others that are committed to socially and environmentally responsible citizenship are beacons of light in a world of darkness. It gets very discouraging reading daily headlines about unethical people and organizations who contribute to the pollution and death of anything good on this planet. These responsible organizations are inspiring for me, and I hope for others as well, to move in a direction of change in organizational mindset, putting meaning and people above profit and power.


Critically evaluate unethical and toxic uses of power by those in positions of leadership

Assignment #2: How do money, meaning, and power become resources for reinforcing destructive leadership? Address each category of money, meaning, and power in your response. How can we treat these resources differently to avoid destructive leadership in the organization? Based on what you have learned in your course of studies at CLU, what strategies can you, as a leader, develop or enact to avoid a harmful environment in the workplace?

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Dialogue Post, Week Five: After reading the articles and watching the material from Dr. Lipman-Blumen and Dr. Kellerman, which conceptual approach presented do think is most helpful in understanding the phenomenon of poor leadership and abuses of power?  Why? How are Lipman-Blumen’s and Kellerman’s concepts and the articles’ perspectives presented similar?  How do they differ?To what extent are followers culpable for allowing toxic or bad leaders to abuse their positions of power?  More than one person in history has suggested that followers “get the leaders they deserve.”  Do you agree or disagree with this assertion?  Why?

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Assignment # 2 discusses the psychological phenomenon at play when a destructive leader emerges. It analyzes and evaluates symptoms, signs and behaviors of which we, as leaders of change, must be aware in order to avoid and prevent toxic uses of power in our environments. It explains the toxic triangle (Padilla 2007) which points out that destructive leaders cannot exist alone; they need susceptible followers and a conducive environment in which to thrive. The paper and the dialogue post for week five explain the importance of knowing about group think and how that can be used to manipulate large groups of people by destructive leaders and how to get out from under it or how to avoid it. It is dually important to understand the psychological effects that occur when people go through emotional trauma, come into success and/or feel they are at an advantage in terms of money and power (Piff 2010). The Bathsheba Syndrome and the Emptiness Syndrome (Ludwig, et al. 1993) are common “states of mind” that leaders experience which can lead to destructive behavior. Megalomania is another syndrome; it is the “I am the center of the universe” phenomenon that can occur when leaders are successful. We need to know about these mental affects in order to recognize them, navigate through them, address them, and avoid them in the future.

Throughout this course and this Master’s program, destructive and toxic leadership has been a primary theme, and my main area of interest as well. I have had many experiences with unethical leaders who have destroyed people, organizations and poisoned the workplace. Upon reflection, it is not always about money, but more about power, self-meaning and ego for these types of leaders. I have become somewhat of an expert on bad leadership as a result of this program, accompanied by several life experiences with toxic leaders. The change is one of understanding and awareness where I was once ignorant. All of the experience I have had with destructive leaders, where I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t understand what was happening to me and to others mentally, I just knew something was not right. Now I can recognize signs of toxicity, I can process why the behavior has emerged, and I know I can analyze and articulate with confidence. I also know I have a choice in how I handle the situation, based on the factors and circumstances. I don’t have to just “live with it.”


Evaluate current practices in the areas of social entrepreneurship, social business, and corporate social responsibility

Dialogue Post, Week Nine: Bornstein and Davis note that philanthropy has changed from the old model of strangers donating to strangers to a model based on connection and accountability. What has changed in society that might account for this change in philanthropic attitudes? How will this help and how might it hinder social entrepreneurs?

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Collaboration Post, Week Nine: What is the role of collaboration in social change? What are the obstacles? How is this aligned with other issues of power, money, and meaning? How can leaders create an environment of positive social change?

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In the first artifact, different and emerging models of philanthropy are introduced. Venture philanthropy, strategic philanthropy and impact investing are the current models used by both non-profits and social enterprises. In terms of specific practices dialogue and collaboration are essential techniques for positive change and for creating new meaning among groups. Businesses in the social sector focus on these types of forward-thinking methods of communication as they withhold assumptions, uphold listening, respect, empathy and openness to many perspectives. These businesses focus on meaning over money and power and stress the importance of human rights and dignity.

Learning about the social sector has been enlightening, heart warming and inspiring! I am challenged in thinking about how social organizations can find ways to fund themselves… there are different models but it will always be a difficult road that calls for creativity. When thinking about going into social business myself, my first thought is, NO, I don’t have the money, I have to make money to live so I would need to either find an organization that had a for-profit side and a social side. I can anticipate that it is very difficult to start a social business when resources are scarce. If we had banks like the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, obtaining money to fund socially responsible initiatives would be more of a possibility.

The change is that I am thinking about social enterprise and how I might fit in or make it work. I am also inspired by the social organizations I am discovering, such as The Women’s Worldwide Initiative (TWWI). I chose TWWI for the focus of a social enterprise paper in this segment of the course; and I am excited to say TWWI is one that is truly changing the world by stopping the poverty cycle for girls and young women globally.


Build the interests and gain the skills needed to strategically plan and lead projects for ethical, sustainable ends

Capstone Project, summarized in Collaboration Post, Week Ten.

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E-Portfolio: Note: my Capstone Action Project can be found in my e-portfolio.

My CAP is an example of how I have built interest in the community, used the skills I have been acquiring in this program through excellent resources, and strategically planned an executed a project that ethical and sustainable. To expand on sustainability, the compassion campaign is the first of many. We plan to execute five campaigns each year, and each one impacts hundreds of people, inspiring them to new heights of compassionate action through random acts of kindness. The idea is that the good deeds will 1) cultivate compassion in people’s lives 2) inspire them and others to continue due the benefits of personal well-being.

My e-portfolio includes my CAP and is a showcase of what I have gained throughout the MEL program.  This is a comprehensive way to show how I have gained the knowledge necessary to design and conduct ethical, sustainable programs and a glimpse into how the program has impacted and changed my behavior and way of thinking. In addition, I plan to participate in Stanford University’s C Care Center programs, including compassion cultivation training so I can take my knowledge to the next level and become certified to teach people about compassion and how it works!

As a result of this course, and of this entire Ethical Leadership program, I have changed in many ways. It has been a journey of self-discovery; sometimes painful but filled with truth and increased self-awareness and the joy and confidence that comes with that. I’ve gained a better understanding of interpersonal communication and respecting that people have different social worlds and different acculturation, which shapes their perspectives and mindsets. Most importantly, I have become a better listener. In learning about the social sector, I come away with a new hope that there is something better — a better way of doing business that honors people, human rights and human dignity. I am inspired that good people still exist out there that are dedicated to meaningful change, as I am. I will move forward, connecting with those that share my values and quest for meaning and compassion to create new meanings in a world that so desperately needs to find a better way.

Ludwig, D.C. and Longnecker, C.O. (1993). The Bathsheba syndrome: The ethical failure of successful leaders. Journal of Business Ethics 12 (4), 265-273.

Padilla, A., Hogan, R., and Kaiser, R.B. (2007). The toxic triangle: destructive leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments. The Leadership Quarterly 18 (3): 176-194.

Piff, Paul. (2013). Ted Talk. Does money make you mean? Retrieved from: 8#q=paul+piff+money.


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