What I want to become: An exercise in creative leadership

May 11, 2014

Here’s an exercise in creative leadership. It takes five minutes to complete. Try it out for yourself or for your friends or with people you work with

Pantograph

You can do this exercise using an A4 sheet of paper, or a flip chart or using a computer or tablet. I will describe it for working with a sheet of paper but it is easy to translate for working from a flip chart or computer.

DSCN0857[1]

1 First you take a piece of paper and make two columns by drawing a line vertically down the middle of the page

2 Then at the top of the left hand column you write
I want to become ……

3 Then you complete the sentence with your wished-for future dream in no more than three additional words. It may be a professional wish or a personal one.

4 At the top of the right hand column write a statement about some quite different wish. You can select from this list of wishes suggested to me in the past. Select something as far away as possible from your statement in the left-hand column:

Airline pilot
Nobel Prize winning scientist
Famous explorer
Famous peace maker
Role model for children
Olympic athlete
Respected family person
Great teacher

5 Write down quickly ten ideas that would help you or someone else achieve the wish in the right-hand column. Let your imagination rip

6 Take a short break

7 Now turn your attention to the left-hand column

8 Look at the first item on the right and see what needs to be changed for it to suggest something in the left hand column

9 Write down the first thought that seems to connect with your own wish, opposite the first item on the right.

10 Repeat the process with the next item from the right hand column

11 Keep repeating the process. It will always be possible to find a connection for each idea

12 Take another short break before identifying idea you like most for a first step towards you reaching your dream

Why the exercise works and what might prevent it working

I know the exercise work because colleagues and I have tried it out on creativity courses around the world countless times. I expect it to have worked for you as a subscriber to Leaders We Deserve. The basic principles are derived from application of techniques for re-framing thoughts and visualizing future actions.

Sometimes it doesn’t work. There are various possible explanations for this. Most are to do with the specific circumstances under which the exercise was carried out. If it didn’t work for you, A conversation though the comments section of LWD may be found helpful. You can also find out more from courses and many books about creative problem-solving.


21st Century Leadership: the jury is out [part 2]

May 1, 2014

Venus ascendingThe judge continues his summing up by examining the evidence brought before the court of five emerging trends in 21st Century Leadership

Members of the jury. I will complete my summing-up this morning and then provide you with final instructions which you are to follow in reaching your verdict.

I turn first to the five emerging theories brought before this court as relevant to leadership in the 21st century. Before I do that I will comment on the uniqueness of the five theories. In this respect I am reminded of an ancient authority who said that there is nothing new under the sun. Indeed, each of these ‘new’ theories has connections with earlier theories, and may be seen as emergent of the old with new definitions. You must not become confused by such labels. I will offer a working definition and a few brief notes on each theory paying particular attention to connections with the Dominant Rational Model of Leadership

First we heard about Level 5 leadership. This is considered a style which is characterized by personal humility and fierce resolve. The theory presents itself as evidence that Level 5 leaders are more successful than charismatic leaders in comparable situations. This is seen as evidence we are moving towards a post-charismatic understanding of leadership effectiveness. I should add that the major study of Level 5 leadership reported to us applied the scientific methodology of establishing rational proof. This makes its approach modern and supporting the dominant rational model, rather than post-modern and challenging it.

The second emerging theory, is Distributed Leadership. As implied in its name, Distributed Leadership is a theory about sharing of leadership responsibilities. This description is close to the roles and structuring found in in the older models of scientific management. Witness statements were provided from contemporary sports teams, musical ensembles and military tactical teams. Distributed leadership was presented mostly as a strictly rational approach. However, business practitioners also mentioned the benefits of fostering team spirit and initiative, leading to ’empowered’ team participants acting beyond formally designated leadership roles. You may conclude that such considerations go beyond a totally rational explanation of the theory

The third emerging theory is Trust-based Leadership. Trust-based leadership has become popular among consultants and practicing leaders as we heard from the witness statements. The special feature of trust-based leadership is achieving results through gaining trust of colleagues and the wider network of social contacts. As described my practitioner leaders, trust based leadership appears as an instrumental approach to achieving a leader’s goals. This was described by the academic Joseph Rost as typical of the technological and rational belief system of much of 20th century leadership. In other words, the belief systems of advocates of trust-based leadership are strongly influenced by the dominant rational model.

The fourth emerging theory is that of Creative Leadership. A creative leader is someone who stimulates creative outcomes in others through a style encouraging change and innovation. An important aspect of creative leadership is that it helps overcome dilemmas in decision-making by escaping ‘either-or’ thinking. Creative leadership is a challenge to purely rational approaches and as with trust-based leadership can be traced to pre-modern theories such as charismatic leadership.

The fifth emerging theory is Positive Leadership Positive Leadership promotes positive self-image as a means of personal development. It is based on the positive psychology movement, which itself can be traced to humanistic psychology. The style is affirmative, encouraging and celebrating success. It is regarded with suspicion by many authorities of cognitive psychology who remain more closely wedded to models of internal mental constructions. Put simply, Positive Leadership challenges the dominance of rational models of psychology and of leadership.

You will have to examine each theory in turn and explore how it relates to the dominance of the rational model of leadership. Before you retire to begin that task, I intend to summarize one more set of witness statements. These were five other leadership themes which were mentioned more briefly in the evidence provided in this trial. They may nevertheless turn out to be highly significant in your deliberations. I suggest we take a short break, after which I will complete by summing up with reference to these five theories.

Witness Statements

British Quality Foundation: Leading with Vision, Inspiration and Integrity

To be concluded


21st Century Leadership: the jury is out

April 29, 2014

The jury is out on the emerging leadership maps of the 21st century. In this first report, we hear the summing up by the judge dealing with the evidence of the rise of rational belief systems from the time of Plato to the 18th century enlightenment and beyondThe Judge

Members of the jury. You have the responsibility to evaluate the credibility of the case for and against the leadership theories of the 21st century. To do so, you have to assess the accounts of witnesses brought forward by the prosecution and the defense. The theories placed before you are: Level 5 leadership, Distributed leadership, trust-based leadership, creative leadership, positive leadership, authentic leadership, sustainability leadership, discursive leadership, visionary leadership, charismatic leadership, and transformational leadership,

The theories brought before you are those that have become more powerful since the start of the millennium. Before I summarize the evidence, I believe it will be helpful if I outline the historical background to these theories, and particularly the influence of the dominant rational model, accused of being the ring leader of the entire group.

You will recall hearing from several witnesses that the influential leadership theories of the 20th century were broadly considered to be based on a dominant belief system in the effectiveness of rational actions informed by rational reasoning. That is to say, leadership was the execution of rational behaviours by rational actors.

The advocates of rationality have pointed to the great advances made through application of such rational behaviours for over two millennia. Two thousand years, members of the jury. Rationality, it has been claimed, was worked out as a means of establishing truths about the material world, and the worlds of science and mathematics. Many centuries later a new philosophic approach to rationality was worked out which claimed it to be the key that unlocked human consciousness from a state of ignorance or unenlightened beliefs. You heard the philosopher Immanuel Kant state that [I quote] “immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another.” In other words, enlightenment is the process of undertaking to think for oneself, to employ and rely on one’s own intellectual capacities in determining what to believe and how to act.

The French academician René Descartes gave evidence of his rationalist system of philosophy and of the objectivity which reveals reality. The Enlightenment is sometimes called “the Age of Reason”. Its leading philosophers followed Descartes’s attempts to deal with the issue of objectivity and the reality of what we perceive and believe to be true.

The enlightenment ushered in an age of rationality and modernity as science and the scientific methods of analysis helped in the advances in industrial practices. An age of modernity in thinking and creating had replaced earlier less enlightened ages.

By the 20th century, the scientific approach of rationality, if I may use a popular expression, appeared to be the only show in town. As I have explained it, I have not yet made an important point. The rational model has indeed been dominant for over two centuries. Dominant but not, if I am to be precise, utterly without rivals. There were other shows in town, and it is witnesses of these that were introduced by the prosecution, who argue that they remain muted as evidence of the excessive power being wielded by the dominant rational model in leadership theorizing.

I will now move to the ten theories and the evidence of the influence of the dominant rational model.

[To be continued with the judge’s summing up of the ten theories]

Level 5 leadership,
Distributed leadership,
trust-based leadership,
creative leadership,
positive leadership,
authentic leadership,
sustainability leadership,
discursive leadership,
visionary leadership,
charismatic leadership,
transformational leadership.

Expert witness statements

Matheson, Carl, “Historicist Theories of Rationality“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

Bristow, William, “Enlightenment“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),


Musical conductors and surgeons share leadership skills

May 19, 2013

Eye SurgeryThe leadership skills required of musical conductors and surgeons are highly situational and yet applicable to many other leadership roles

This idea is not particularly novel, although I have not come across it in the introductory leadership textbooks prepared for business executives. The closest is an infrequent reference to improvisation, or creating within accepted principles or rules.

Distributed leadership

LWD subscribers may have noticed recent posts mentioning musical conductors. I also interviewed the promising young conductor Duncan Ward a few years ago.

Overall, the impression I received of musical leadership was of a form of distributed leadership. The conductor symbolizes and ‘orchestrates’ the performance, and coordinates its execution, assisted by the contributions of the leaders of various musical sub-groups within the whole.

The surgeon

More recently I had direct experience of a highly skilled surgeon at work. My contribution to the performance was as his patient, but was able to witness the procedure to some degree because of the absence of a general anaesthetic.

Distributed leadership as a non-zero sum game

The surgeon was clearly the leader of a team. However, again there were sub-groupings each with a formal leader. Distributed leadership again. This not the simple splitting up of the tasks as was made famous by Adam Smith’s distribution of labour or Henry Ford’s efficiency concept of a production line. Power is not asserted top-down as in a zero-sum game. The conductor or surgeon creates within constraints imposed by the situation and its interpretation. The other lead players and ‘team members’ are not de-skilled (as they are in the classical model of a modernist business production line) but enabled. In other words, it becomes a non-zero sum game.

Footnote

A similar metaphor was used by footballer Robin van Persie in an interview. he talks of football training as being in an orchestra with the coach as conductor.


Hugo Chavez will have a foothold in world history

March 9, 2013

Hugo ChavezHugo Chavez, President of Venezuela, who died this week, deserves study as an example of an visionary revolutionary leader whose influence impacted on global events over several decades.

His life story is the stuff of legends. The disentanglement of myth from reality is difficult. Inevitably there is the view of his supporters who find it easy to support the great leader narrative. Conversely, the view of his detractors provides the mirror image, that of a delusional tyrant who misapplied the oil revenues of his country through his foreign policy adventures.

A platform of understanding

There is a factual basis of events which forms a shared ‘platform of understanding’ or POU, regardless of which of the rival ‘maps’ you subscribe to. I have drawn the following synopsis from an obituary in the Guardian, selecting information which can be found in other sources.

Chavez was born in humble circumstances and had no obvious natural advantages by birth. What he achieved he did largely through his own efforts. If there were other factors it would be the natural resources and particularly its oil which give Venezuela considerable economic clout beyond its borders.

His parents were both teachers by profession, but a passion for baseball led young Hugo to enrol in the military academy at the age of 17. As a young officer, he became disillusioned with [corruption in] the armed forces and led a failed uprising against the military. The successor to President Pérez, Rafael Caldera, ordered the cases against them to be dropped. Chavez later stood for president with a promise to sweep aside the old order, rewrite the constitution and eliminate corruption. Riding a wave of disgust with politics, and strode to power. Later elections consolidated Chávez’s grip on power. There followed a period of unrest, a resignation, and a subsequent reinstatement.

During his 1998 presidential campaign, Chávez had insisted that he was “neither of the left nor the right”. But by 2006, he felt sufficiently secure to declare that socialism was the only way forward. Specifically, it was “21st-century socialism”. By 2011 Chavez was in poor health, and he stood and won re-election in absentia earlier this year [2013]

Internationally, he supported allies through his oil revenues and was particularly influential in Cuba. His political stance was increasingly distasteful to the United States. His presidency has been described as fostering a socialist pink tide sweeping Latin America including Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua. Arguably Brazil, under Lula, a more cautious leader, internationally, supported Chavez in principle, without risking the roller-coaster ride in political fortunes.

What can be learned about leadership from studying Hugo Chavez?

I believe that students of leadership should study the accounts of influential leaders. However, my view comes with serious reservations. The stories tend to be either highly favourable or highly dismissive. In either case, what is missing (and what the student has to provide) is the lessons from the way the leader deals with the tough problems or dilemmas. Too often I read essays in which leaders appear to overcome all obstacles through natural brilliance.

21st century socialism

Chavez consistently faced difficulties including imprisonment and possible impeachment or worse. He was consistent in placing himself in a high moral position by appealing to a higher cause including ‘Bolivarization’ of his country, the emancipation of the oppressed, and (more recently) 21st century socialism. This implied a creative leadership stance of ‘Both And’ permitting him a retention of his Christian faith, while supporting other socialist and communist leaders who rejected it.


Sustainability leadership: The case of O2’s “Think Big”

November 3, 2012

When O2 launched its sustainability initiative in 2010, it attempted to connect up its 12000 employees to a range of stakeholders as the Think Big scheme

According to The Guardian the initiative, known as “think big”,was championed by O2’s CEO Ronan Dunne, Irish rugby fanatic, and advocate of fair auctioning of the G4 spectrum rights. Think big is the creative label for the notion that:

… by “starting small”, everyone can become motivated to have bigger ideas about people and the planet. Think big aims to create greener products and services, to make buildings more sustainable, lower the company’s environmental impact and help build the confidence of a million young people through a £5m social action programme investing in youth projects.

All employees are encouraged to make pledges to get involved, supported by a strong internal campaign (online, in stores, offices and call centres) and a dedicated website. From suggesting business and energy saving ideas to volunteering or reducing their travel impact, employees are encouraged to join a community of sustainable thinkers and the company says it tries to offer something for everyone, whatever their role.
Think big values are also built into personal development reviews and O2 rewards involvement through an award-winning peer-voted recognition scheme, known as Fanclub. People can get involved in activities such as one-to-one mentoring of young people, fronted by the National Youth Agency and other partners.

They can join the company’s own network, described as teams of activists, who are able to dedicate paid-time to exploring social enterprise ideas within and outside the business. Or staff can make a difference in their everyday work by, for example, finding ways to work together more efficiently, reducing travel and energy use or recycling

Sustainability strategy

O2 has set itself a strategic goal to be recognised for its sustainability policy. The think big initiative feeds from and enhances its product development innovations.

Creative leadership and the progress principle

The broad reach of the scheme, together with integrated nature fits well with the notions of creative leadership and the progress principle advocated by Teresa Amabile and Steve Kramer. Professor Amabile of Harvard Business School is a leading scholar in the field of creativity and intrinsic motivation. The progress principle champions the principle of small multiple wins as a means to a more creative and empowered corporate culture.

There is no Plan B

The high profile of the sustainability initiative is reminiscent of the Marks & Spencer approach to sustainability known as Plan A. This was also pioneered from the top, by its then CEO, the charismatic Sir Stuart Rose. It was described as plan A “because there is no alternative plan B”.

Independent monitoring

The O2 scheme is being independently monitored by sustainability experts, Forum for the Future.

Sustainability is catching on

Sustainability is no longer an optional extra for global organizations, according to sustainability consultants Seymourpowell. As well as in O2, sustainability projects have been identified in firms such as Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Mars, Akzo Nobel, eBay, BASF, PepsiCo, Tata Beverage Group, Sony Ericsson, SCA, Boots and the Technology Strategy Board

According to Dr Chris Sherwin, head of sustainability at Seymourpowell

“In my 15 years in the field, sustainable business has changed beyond recognition – moving from a risk to an opportunity; and from compliance to a leadership issue. The old way of doing things – of reporting and monitoring, through supply chains, communication and PR simply won’t work anymore. Increasingly, sustainability will be about creativity, entrepreneurship and growth, placing it squarely in the hands of innovators and designers.”

Sustainability polarises opinion

Sustainability remains a topic that polarises opinion. Those who advocate it risk being designated visionaries or charlatans (or both). It is a risk that political leaders as well as corporate leaders are increasingly having to address.


Re-housed Blue Peter Goes All Digital

July 14, 2012

Last year, BBC Children’s broadcasting moved to a glossy new home in Salford’s media city. Now its programmes bow to the electronic age in a shift from BBC1 to a digital channel

Report by Susan Moger and Tudor Rickards

It was coincidence that we visited the BBC centre in Media City on the week that the announcement was made [May 15th 2012] that BBC children’ s programmes were to be moved to a digital channel.

Shaping National Culture

The role played by the BBC in shaping national culture should not be under-estimated. Within that culture, the Blue Peter programme has a particularly iconic status.

The Independent noted:

After more than 50 years as a children’s teatime fixture, Blue Peter will set sail from its flagship BBC1 home to a digital channel that the BBC made earlier.

The magazine programme, along with children’s favourites including Newsround and In the Night Garden, will be banished from terrestrial channels as part of a shake-up to cut costs after the completion of the switchover from analogue broadcasts to digital.

Blue Peter, which first aired in 1958, and other programmes for pre-teens, will now be shown solely on the dedicated children’s channel CBBC. Biddy Baxter, the programme’s former editor, opposed the move, saying it would reduce the available audience.

But figures showed that more children aged six to 12 already watched Blue Peter on the digital channel, where the episodes now premiere, than on BBC1, where it is shown on Fridays.

Sailing into the digital future

Media City Salford is a vision for a creative hotspot becoming reality. If successful, it will attract even more creative talent, and produce a 21st century environment for innovation and economic growth. Even not-so-young programmes like Blue Peter are moving with the times.