Leadership is a favourite topic for wideThinking.
In organisations, conThink says, “When times are difficult, get a strong, visionary leader, train up good new leaders elsewhere in the organisation, keep a light but steady hand on the tiller, keep structures and communication clear”. This approach is widely advocated still in the public and private sector and even in the odd NGO.
wideThinking tells us that training leaders is like taking goldfish out of murky water, polishing them and putting them back in the same water. Or like putting Barack Obama into the White House.
So wideThinking has a lot to say about Leadership development. Here's an extract from a piece by John Renesch on leadership development:
"I have reached the same conclusion much of the money spent on leadership development has been wasted. I have long suspected we don’t need any more leadership “content.” And these three seemingly coincidental insights have helped bring that nagging suspicion into the daylight of recognition. It’s as if I was one of the actors complicit in sticking to the script. After all, I have written extensively about leadership and delivered numerous keynotes on the subject. I have been one of the purveyors of content so it isn’t too surprising that I’m a bit slow to get this. History tells us that the last people to recognize a new truth are those most invested in perpetuating the old one.
We don’t need more models. We have all the information we need. We know what good leadership is thanks to the work of icons such as Burns, Bennis, Wheatley, Autry, Kouzes and Posner, and Hesselbein. Leadership isn’t playing politics or staying under the radar. It isn’t using up our professional development budget and storing up all those pearls of wisdom for a rainy day. It isn’t about becoming fluent in the leadership lexicon. It isn’t following some template learnt in a workshop.
Leadership is acting on what we feel passionately about, developing an idea, righting a wrong or inspiring great performance. It is about taking a stand, which involves daring and bravery of a different sort than our ancestors displayed. We don’t need more books. There are endless volumes of sage advice already in print. We don’t need more classes or workshops. We do need more people standing tall for what they believe, for the values they embody.
When someone knows what needs doing, and stands by without doing anything about it, a piece of their soul dies. Having sold their souls, they start settling for smaller bits of gratification and rationalization. In other words, they tend to exaggerate their successes and explain away their failures. They become spin-meisters or what is more commonly called “bullshitters.” Most of this rationalized spin is directed at themselves, as a defensive means of explaining their settling. In the absence of being strong and decisive leaders, they settle for “the best they can do given the circumstances.”
Read the full article by John Renesch.
Read an article by Bill Tate on applying wideThink to leadership development.
See all our publications on wideThink about Leadership
wideThinking and Hierarchy
wideThinking also shows us that hierarchy is not the only - or best- way to run anything.
Here's an extract from an interview with Jeffrey Nielsen - a strong proponent of the leaderless organisation:
"1. What is the myth of leadership?
It is a set of assumptions and the ideology that justify the significance we place on our concept of leadership, and the privileges we bestow upon our leaders – frequently to the detriment of others in our organizations. The Myth of Leadership creates the powerful belief that only a relatively few “gifted” individuals can be anointed leaders and so trusted to make the decisions and do the commanding and controlling of everyone else. It makes false assumptions about both leaders and followers – with detrimental consequences for both.
We create a dichotomy, two categories: one of leaders - a select and privileged few; and the second of followers - the vast majority. So you get secrecy, distrust, overindulgence, and the inevitable sacrifice of those below for the benefit of those above. When we use the word “leadership,” we immediately create a ranked division of people in ways that do not serve healthy organizational relationships. We waste too much human potential and do not allow life in our organizations to be as successful and meaningful as it could be.
2. What is ‘rank thinking’ and what is ‘peer thinking’?
I have learned through much good and bad experience that genuine communication tends to occur only between peers, and secrecy more often than not breeds corruption and abuse of power. Organizations which practice the kind of rank thinking associated with the myth of leadership find poor communication the norm and discover a growing gap between reality and the mindset of the top executives.
Peer thinking does not mean we are all interchangeable, or that we all possess equal talents, needs, ambitions, or that we even make equal contributions. What it does assert is that all members of the organization have equal standing. It is a strategic principle guaranteeing the organization will be more successful. By denying no one the chance to make decisions about issues affecting his or her work, it will increase everyone’s productivity and lower costs. Our workplaces will also improve as we gain the productivity unleashed by treating one another as peers.
I define rank thinking as the belief that only a few in any organization (generally the designated leaders) should be given special privilege to monopolize information, control decision-making, and command obedience from the vast majority either through coercive or manipulative power. Peer thinking, on the other hand, I define as the belief that everyone in the organization should have an equal privilege to speak and an equal obligation to listen regardless of their position in the organization. In general this would mean that everyone shares in information, participates in the decision-making process, and chooses to follow through persuasive means."
Read the full article.
Read about hierarchy, heterarchy and responsible autonomy.
A special issue of the AMED Journal looks at paradoxes relating to:
The issue costs £10 but you can get it - and other recent editions of the Journal - for £5 as a Triarchy reader by clicking here.