Leaders: Myths and Reality

November 26, 2018

General Stanley McChrystal and co-authors explore contemporary beliefs on leadership. They do so by assessing leaders and leadership through a series a case examples, some ancient, some modern. 

The authors acknowledge that the structure can be traced to Plutarch’s Lives, no longer the best-seller it once was. 

Plutarch hit on the wheeze of comparing the recorded acts of the great leaders. Both the method and foundation myth of the Great Man leader persists today, as McChrystal points out.The demise of The Great Man myth has been predicted for long enough, but even the increasing announcements of its decline may prove premature. Arguably, the more interesting question is what permits its survival? I am reminded of the century-long search for the essence of leadership, when trait theory guided popular and scholarly beliefs alike. The American theorist Stogdill is widely regarded as weakening the long-established belief in a trait-based essence of leadership. 

Modern textbooks point to the weakening of trait theory (interestingly, not mentioned by McChrystal), but we are still saddled with a candidate for the essence of leadership, in the charismatic leader. I have argued the dangers of unchallenged belief in the charismatic leader, in Dilemmas of Leadership, particularly in later editions of the textbook, and in the monograph about the charismatic football manager Jose Mourinho.


My own interest in leadership was quickened by the writings of the British academic John Adair, who also drew on his understanding of classical leadership accounts. 


McChrystal’s contribution adds to the genre, and stands above many pot-boilers which continue to be churned out.


Leading through challenging times

September 8, 2017

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Leading through challenging times: Can the voluntary sector respond to the wider crisis of political and civil society leadership?

Thursday 23rd November 2017, Milton Keynes

Call for papers

We warmly invite contributions to the next VSSN Day Conference, which is being hosted by the Open University Business School. The conference will provide a diverse and critical engagement with questions such as:

What do we mean when we talk about leadership, and why does it seem to be salient at the moment?

Is there a leadership deficit in the sector, as some think, or is this a distraction from the real issues?

What theories and concepts of leadership should voluntary sector scholars be engaging with?

How could leadership be strengthened, if we agree it should be? Are there examples of leadership practice and practical initiatives that scholars should pay more heed to?

What is distinctive (or not) about leadership in the voluntary sector compared to other sectors? Does size make a difference?

We welcome proposals from researchers, academics, doctoral students and practitioners, from a broad range of fields. Empirical, theoretical, methodological, practice or policy insights are welcome.

Abstracts of roughly 250 words should be sent to james.rees@open.ac.uk by 26th September 2017.

For the full call and information about VSSN click here


New Leadership Events at Sunderland Business School

June 12, 2017

15th June:  David Land, Director, Drive 2 Business will be speaking about  Leading through Supply Chains in the Automotive Sector

6th July:   Emma Walton, Head of People (Operations) will be speaking on Responsible Leadership and Social Impact

Sunderland Business School is pleased to announce its second series of the popular Business Breakfast Seminars, which began in January and will run until July 2017. All of the award-winning businesses invited to lead these events represent different facets of the core theme which is Leading with Impact. Not only do they represent a clear alignment with the core values of our Strategic Plan, the award-winning businesses leading these free events have been carefully selected as aligning with the core values underlining our new strategic plan: inspiring, innovative, collaborative, inclusive and excellent.

Leading with impact

Leading with Impact a reflects our commitment to developing excellence in leadership and management development as one of our strategic growth areas.  The seminars provide a learning and networking opportunity where award winning business leaders share their experience and expertise on the major challenges facing organizations today. This is a great opportunity for business leaders to start the working day with some with some time out to learn from their peers, share experiences, reflect, and engage in lively dialogue about the best ways of addressing key strategic challenges.

Participants are also able to take advantage of a light business breakfast and an opportunity to make initial introductions and network. During the seminar itself, speakers will leave plenty of time for an interactive dialogue and debate on the lessons learnt from their experiences.

The seminars will take place between 8-10am on Thursdays at Sunderland Business School, the Reg Vardy Centre, St Peter’s Campus, St Peter’s Way, Sunderland SR6 0DD

Contact us via engage@sunderland.ac.uk

Posted by

 Dr Rob Worrall BA (Hons), MA, MSc, PhD, SFHEA, FCMI, FRSA, ACIPD Principal Lecturer, Faculty of Business,  Law and Tourism Tel: 0191 515 3060 | M: 07748 334 833 | E: rob.worrall@sunderland.ac.uk


Rainieri fired: A toxic default mode in football and other businesses

February 24, 2017

 

Less than a year ago, Claudio Ranieri crowned a successful and graceful career by leading Leicester City Football Club as their manager to the greatest upset in football history. At enormous odds , Leicester wins the premier league title. There is talk of a movie being made of the feat

The board of Leicester joins in global recognition and joy at the team’s astonishing success. A month ago, after half a season of disappointing results, the board gave him their full backing. Two days ago, his team again showed fighting spirit.  A day ago, the same board fired him ‘in the long-term interests of the club’.

Actions have consequences

It is a symptom of leadership failure often associated with abuse of power, and a lack of appreciation of long-term consequences of such actions.

A toxic default mode

The lessons from the past suggest it can become a toxic default mode in football. Aston Villa (‘deadly’ Doug); Newcastle (a hereditary flaw in a great culture); even Chelsea (whisper it, Roman Abramovich); and now last year’s local and global heroes Leicester.

‘Sad’ (As another well-known businessman, entertainment show host and would-be politician   likes to tweet).

Sad. Toxic. Rarely effective. Weakness masquerading as strength.


A top crime-writer looks at leadership

July 5, 2016

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Patricia Cornwell has rightly earned her reputation for her crime-novels, and in particular the series starring her forensic heroine Kay Scarpetta

Her stories are procedural but with flashes of creative insight. I found one such observation in a recently published (2015) novel, Depraved Heart.

A Special Ops team arrives to support forensic scientist Kay Scarpetta and her loveably crude sidekick, detective Pete Marino.  The author muses on what makes these action men (and women) so special? Here’s how Cornwall sees it:

When they shift their weight or move they are subtle and silent. They’re agile and non reactive. They’re disciplined, stoical, what I consider the perfect hero blend of selflessness and narcissism. You have to love yourself if you’re going to fight gloriously and bravely..

Selflessness and narcissism

Cornwell is commenting on the heroic person, and what sets them apart.

The only named member of this group of special people in the book is Ajax. After a little checking, I remembered that Ajax figured in Greek mythology as a heroic figure. (So did Hero, another point worth remembering). Let’s just say Cornwell knew what she was doing. Ajax was a warrior with magical powers. Homer’s Ilead leaves Ajax alive, but in the nature of Greek tragic drama, Ajax eventually over-reaches himself, carries out an unworthy act of violence, and commits suicide at the disgrace it brings on his name.

When Cornwell nods

I found Depraved Heart rather plodding, one of the weakest of the Kay Scarpetta novels.  My view is shared by other reviewers, but even when Cornwell nods, she is capable of flashes of insight.  She concludes the episode involving super-agent Ajax and team with an oxymoronic comment on the nature of heroism, which  might apply to notions of the great leader.

It’s a contradiction.  It seems illogical.  It’s not a stereotype or a cliche when I say that special ops aren’t like the rest of us.

 

Beware of stereotypes, she is telling us, they are too one-dimensional.


John Whittingdale: The BBC bites back

April 13, 2016

The culture minister John Whittingdale is embroiled in a story about his relationship with a consort considered unsuitable for a minister of the crown.  It is tempting to link his story to that of the affair of the hapless John Profumo, many years ago

 The context to this story is the febrile political atmosphere in the UK, where there is an appetite for political mischief in the run-in to the EU referendum.

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The story of FIFA: Update on a permanently failing organization?

April 8, 2016

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FIFA is where National Ground Hog day meets Inspector Clouseau. The mega leaks from The Panamanian sieve, aka Mossack Fonseka, have already brought about the downfall of Iceland’s President, and considerable embarrassment to numerous other powerful figures. It was more inevitable than surprising that FIFA would have a bit part to play in the drama.

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