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Individual Writing Assignment

Ioannis Kanlis

Monterey, February 2015

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Individual Writing Assignment by LT Ioannis Kanlis

After almost 10 years, I still feel that my 2 year service as a Supply Officer in
Greek Auxiliary Warship AXIOS was partial successful, although from a leadership
and motivational perspective, it could become a nice count the managers errors
case study. I was in charge of the Supply and Finance Division, responsible for the
financial transactions and procurement of any goods (from provisions to spare parts).
Regarding my team, I had four petty officers under my command. In addition, the
ships working environment wasnt inspiring, since my contemporaneous arrival with
the new CO, who was an ambitious Commander with bad reputation for his
commanding abilities and aggressive behavior.
This environment had plenty of repercussions. Crews moral was low, my
team wasnt motivated at all and minor leaves of absence were a daily phenomenon.
At the same time I realized that my petty officers were unwilling to become more
efficient, which combined with the pressure from the hierarchy, left no space for
innovation or new ideas. On the other hand, the relationship between them was quite
friendly, leaving me the sense of a cafeteria rather than a working environment.
From the first moment I felt that I had do something. I tried to be a leader, by
coping with change, setting directions, motivating and inspiring my people (Kotter,
2001) as a leader and not as a manager. By being self aware and quite self regulated
(Goleman, 2004) with the whole situation, I tried to cultivate a motivation climate in
a low productive environment. But their lack of progress, the strict deadlines
combined with the pressure from the CO, forced me to betray myself and distort the
reality. Hence I started to see my crew as objects that might assist me achieving my
goals. I couldnt realize that my frustration, as the schedule was slipping or my
impatience when a team member was slow to make adjustments, was putting me
deeper into the Box that I created. Instead of an inspiring leader, I was being
transformed into a Level-three leader where my personal domination and success was
in the center of system dynamics (Logan, King, & Fischer-Wright, 2008) .
This micromanaging approach started to increase stress and anxiety in my
daily life. I was consistently self-justifying my behavior by blaming my team for their
low performance, which unknowingly provoke them into more unproductive
behavior. Their requests for time-offs increased, they showed no interest in making
any extra effort and our relationship become friendly but not deep and trustworthy.
Finally, I exhibited my actions through my personal intervention in all work aspects,
feeding my belief that my involvement is critical to projects success due to lack of
knowledge and interest from my team members. They were feeling that I was a
know-it-all Decision Maker-Micromanager (Wiseman, 2011) and somehow, I
invited them to create their own Box.
This situation looked quite convenient for everyone. My personal power and
influence tactics guaranteed that the goals could be achieved without any kind of
coercive leadership style. I was more like a Pacesetter (Goleman, 2000) leader who

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prefers compromising and even avoiding any conflict in order to maintain a good
working and communication environment (Powley, 2015) . Furthermore, I was
asking for frequent reports about anything, but rarely asking my teams opinion. Still,
Id try to deal with things that were going wrong by teaching and communicating,
listening and learning and therefore building a relationship, helping things go right
(Bristol Phil, 2010) . On the other hand though, my impatience and lack of progress
was frustrating, forcing me to become more introvert and team-aversive.
Consequently, being in the box turned all my efforts with my petty officers
futile. The arising disappointment led me to put no effort in building deeper rapport
and commitment with my team. By doing so, I was building daily higher barriers for
my box, preventing any actual stimuli from them in order to change my mindset or
approach towards them. Hence I didnt trust them as high-standards professionals,
specifically implementing processes that are as close as possible to fail-safe and risk
free (Kotter, 2001) . At the same time, my argues with my C.O increased
dramatically, mostly due to my decision for minimum job delegation which caused by
my inability to fulfill all C.Os requirements. Stress and anxiety peaked, my girlfriend
was worried about my long moments of silence and deep thinking and I could feel
that my family and close friends worried about my lack of joy and energy in our daily
activities. I did achieve the goals before deadlines though, which inflated my own
virtues at the expense of others and justified my reality of their poor performance. I
was seeing my people as objects in three primary ways: as vehicles to my success, as
obstacles in high performance and goal achieving and as irrelevancies to my ideal
team and working environment.
However, being in the box in that situation, might had some advantages. Goals
achieved and the sense of superiority was feeding my hungry but tired ego. By the end
of the day, my evaluation score might have the note: high self motivated and
inspiring officer. Other officers insisted that I was successful under those difficult
circumstances. My reputation did increase by being in the Box. On the other hand, to
be a leader needs things like coping with change instead of complexity, setting
directions and aligning people instead of organizing and stuffing (Kotter, 2001) . This
distorted reality though, provokes others to stay in their boxes, justifying their
decisions and gradually degrading trust between team members. Simultaneously this
self-deception eliminates the feeling of belonging in the workplace, which is being
cultivated in the teams circle of safety and trust (Sinek, January 2014) . In addition,
box destroys the psychological safety in any workplace, forming a negative belief
about how the others and especially the manager will respond when one puts oneself
on the line, such as by asking a question, seeking feedback or reporting a mistake
(Edmondson, 2002) . Thus I believe that being in the box, ruins the ability to be better
leaders, better parents and in general better people. Even though being in the box
might lead you to gain some reputation, higher salaries, even boost your confidence,
ego and vanity, however the empathy you showed, your vision and your character,
will become your legacy, your torch that will be passed to the next generations.
The self deception behavior is consistent with Model I theory of single loop
learning, where changes in actions and strategies have influence in consequences,
without changing the fundamental governing variables of human behavior. Argyris
(1980) suggests that the primary action strategy of Model I is the unilateral control of
the environment and tasks and protection of self, suggestion that is congruent with a
self-deception and self-betrayal. The underlying strategy is control over others, which

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lead to defensiveness, a mechanism uses to protect self from discovering
embarrassing truths about someones incongruent or less-than-perfect behavior and
intention, like the self-deception caused by being in the box. That kind of protection
builds a distorted reality, which keeps themselves and others unaware of their
defensive reaction (Argyris, 1980) . This kind of incongruence, reinforced by
character attributes of self-deception like insecurity, information controlling,
selfishness, loneliness etc., makes the manager to use examples of Model I behavior,
triggering a defensive reaction. Characteristics like sticking to rigid principles and
never telling to people what you really think/feel (silence is honest), become
dominant, forming a concrete box.
On the other hand, the Model II action is evaluated in terms of the degree to
which it helps the individuals involved general valid and useful information
(including feelings) to solve the problem in a way that it remains solved. (Argyris,
1976) . If you are interested in others by being sincere, trusting, other-centered and
supportive, you move into a way of being. You are taking into consideration the
governing variables (peoples values) of behavior, which drives to double loop
learning of Model II theory. By opening oneself to new information, put everyone
needs on the same level and cease resisting to other people, you start moving out of
your self deception and become congruent with Model II behavior. Those Model II
principles like encouraging freedom of speech and confronting own ideas,
recognizing peoples abilities and continuously advocating, inspire one to start
moving outside of his box. Hence someone could realize that although we are
individuals, we are not merely individuals in the way modern culture assumes. We are
interdependent assets of a system, where the key to success is to express our deep
social nature while being more empathetic. The box starts to collapse and the curtain
of blame is lifted. The internal commitment of Model II becomes the path to liberate
oneself from self-justifying thoughts and feelings, becoming from a Level III manager
to a compassionate and successful Level V leader (Logan et al., 2008) .

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Argyris, C. (1976). Increasing leadership effectiveness Wiley.
Argyris, C. (1980). Inner contradictions of rigorous research Academic Press.
Bristol Phil, Y. G. (2010). Speak the Language of Leadership.1
Edmondson, A. C. (2002). Managing the risk of learning: Psychological safety in
work teams. doi:http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/02062_0b5726a8-443d-4629-9e75-736679b870fc.pdf
Goleman, D. (2000, Mar/Apr 2000). Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business
Review, 78, 78-90.
Goleman, D. (2004, Jan 2004). What makes a leader? Harvard Business Review, 82,
Kotter, J. (2001, Dec 2001). What leaders really do. Harvard Business Review, 79,
Logan, D., King, J., & Fischer-Wright, H. (2008). Tribal Leadership. Leadership
Excellence, 25(2), 4-5.
Powley, N. (2015). Positive Communication in Organizations (SAKAI). Retrieved
from https://cle.nps.edu/access/content/group/19bb7557-0849-4004-a4537a9e797d02f9/Slides_Handouts/SLIDES%20Positive%20Communication%20in

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Sinek, S. (January 2014). Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and
Others Dont (1st edition ed.) Portfolio.
Leader, 2011(59), 52.