Team Dynamics with Dr. McAdams

Dr. Arthur C. McAdams

Shrinks, Sages, & Suits book coverThe Chair of Graduate Programs in the Ernest C. Trefz School of Business, Dr. Arthur C. McAdams, has written a new book titled Shrinks, Sages, and Suits: Integrating Leadership, Governance, and Management for Organization Excellence. In the course of explaining organizational excellence, McAdams relates lessons from antiquity to contemporary issues, offering a way forward by blending the qualities of “shrinks, sages, and suits.” 

McAdams spent his youth playing team sports, including baseball, basketball, football, and soccer, as well as participating in musical ensembles, including marching and concert band, orchestra, and brass corps. These group activities gave him a sense of the importance of team work, which he brings to his content and methods of teaching, and his latest book. Like many children, he dreamed of becoming a professional athlete or musician, but neither worked out, so he was forced to get a “real job.” 

McAdams academic journey spanned four decades. After attending four colleges with four different majors, he finally completed an undergraduate degree from the College of Arts & Sciences at Fairfield University. He then added an MBA from the University of Connecticut, and a Ph.D. in Information Systems from the Computing & Engineering School at Nova Southeastern University. 

Professionally, McAdams caught his first real break when he serendipitously became a computer programmer at a time when this occupation was in demand. Over time, he shifted into management in manufacturing and banking, where he gained attention from local universities as a guest speaker addressing Y2K and the Internet. He then made friends with faculty and began finding real satisfaction in teaching college students the ins and outs of the business world. With 28 years of experience in the industry, including a decade as Senior Vice President at People’s Bank, he has plenty of real-world cases to share with students.

In his current role with UB, he splits time between administrative functions (e.g., advising students) and teaching two Capstone courses: “Ethics, Innovation, & Leadership,” and “Strategy & Policy.” The content of these classes has contributed to Shrinks, Sages, and Suits, along with his experience in the corporate world. His former People’s Bank colleague Kenneth L. Weinstein, now President and CEO of Newton Savings Bank, noted that McAdams “brings his active mind and his uniquely interesting and multi-disciplinary background to the topic of organizational excellence. From Van Halen to DiMaggio to Aristotle, he fills his work with observations and frameworks that make for a lively and thought-provoking read.” 

McAdams spends significant effort in his book relating well-being to organizational health, which includes proper doses of heart (shrink), mind (sage), and body (suit). “I hope that people with these personas will appreciate each other’s contributions,” says McAdams. “And then work toward integrating these necessary attributes into their organizations.” 

One central tenet in the book is driven by a common theme that applies to teams, bands, corporations, etc. Successful organizations had at least one person with social skills (shrink) who could build relationships to hold the team together internally and keep external stakeholders happy. They also had at least one contemplative person who held steadfast to the mission (sage). And finally, they had a least one practical and serious person who focused on the logistics (suit) – especially the financial situation.

“To flourish, organizations need to provide value to stakeholders,” he says. “And each persona is better suited to specific roles.”

Of course, finding this balance always presents a challenge. The people that represent these three necessary dimensions regularly disagree – often to the point of disaster. Sensitive emotionalists (shrinks) view sages as distant and suits as heartless. Resolute thinkers (sages) view shrinks as melodramatic and suits as robotic. Diligent specialists (suits) view shrinks as hyperbolic and sages as unproductive. “Football teams, rock bands, corporations, universities, and governments all can suffer from these internal conflicts,” he says. “Which leads to failure.”

So, with Shrinks, Sages, and Suits, he hopes to prevent some of these disasters. In one section, McAdams parallels Plato’s society to contemporary work settings. Much like courageous auxiliaries, front line shrinks can utilize their “people skills” to influence, motivate, and inspire the population. Like prudent guardians, ivory tower sages can “think deep thoughts” to define the enterprise’s vision, mission, and values. And in line with the temperate craftsmen, back office suits can plan and structure work in productive ways. The lesson for executives is that assessing and aligning talent using these three personas lets individuals “play to their strengths” and builds organizational excellence.

Unlike many business texts, this book presents a three-dimensional view that builds on work from across multiple disciplines, including Plato’s Republic, Montesquieu’s separation of power, and Katz’s administrative hierarchy. Nationally syndicated columnist Cliff Ennico praised this aspect of the book, saying that “McAdams is in a unique position to show how the same archetypes philosophers have used since antiquity to describe the ‘good life lived well’ are exactly the same ones that describe an excellent executive.”

In this way, McAdams has created a multi-disciplinary handbook for success. At the end, he asks readers to take a survey to determine their natural persona. Armed with this “know thyself” foundation, the reader is taken through a few typical organizational scenarios as a way to appreciate the value provided by each of the three vital human dimensions.