A new article by David Collinson, Lancaster University Management School:
This article critically examines excessive positivity in leadership dynamics. It argues that the tendency for leader positivity to become excessive is a recurrent but under-researched medium through which power and identity can be enacted in leadership dynamics. Drawing on the metaphor of ‘Prozac’, it suggests that leaders’ excessive positivity is often characterized by a reluctance to consider alternative voices, which can leave organizations and societies ill-prepared to deal with unexpected events. Prozac leadership encourages leaders to believe their own narratives that everything is going well and discourages followers from raising problems or admitting mistakes. The article also argues that followers (broadly defined) are often quick to identify leaders’ excessive positivity and are likely to respond through various forms of resistance. It concludes by considering the extent to which excessive positivity also characterizes leadership studies, and raises additional questions for further critical analyses of Prozac leadership.
"Prozac leadership and the limits of positive thinking" Leadership May 2012 vol. 8 no. 2 87-107
"The Five Paradoxes of Leadership Development in Asia" condenses the findings from a recent, joint study by the Center for Creative Leadership and the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI) about how to accelerate leadership development. They are presented in the context of Asian needs and, perhaps, Asian philosophy as a set of seeming contradictions.
Paradox #1: To achieve success, learn from failure
Paradox #2: To develop greatness, practice humility
Paradox #3: To foster learning, emphasize doing
Paradox #4: To accelerate development, slow down
Paradox #5: To excel at the task, harness relationships
The study interviewed key personnel from five "best practice" organizations in Singapore. "Too often, leadership is considered in isolation," says Dr. Mano Ramakrishnan, HCLI's head of research. "For this study, we accounted for the dynamics of a rising Asia; where economic growth has been relatively stable and sustained compared to the West, where regulatory uncertainty is part of business, and where rising incomes are rapidly changing the needs of consumers, companies and governments. It was against this backdrop that we distilled the best human capital practices."
Sales guru Geoffrey James has a great article up on Inc. "The best managers have a fundamentally different understanding of workplace, company and team dynamics," he says. "I learned that the 'best of the best,' tend to share the following eight core beliefs."
1. Business is an ecosystem, not a battlefield.
2. A company is a community, not a machine.
3. Management is service, not control.
4. My employees are my peers, not my children.
5. Motivation comes from vision, not from fear.
6. Change equals growth, not pain.
7. Technology offers empowerment, not automation.
8. Work should be fun, not mere toil.
I'm generally leery of lists that tend to confuse correlation with causation, but as principles, James really gets it. Don't stop with the list by itself; read his short article that gets right to the point: "Eight Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Bosses."
One of the happiest days of my life was being stuck with Max Boisot in the back seat of a Range Rover on a fiver hour drive from Heathrow to Durham.
I've met billionaires who are so casually generous that you never feel embarrassed when they treat you to a $500 per person meal. Max was like that with his incredible wealth of knowledge. Sharing so clearly made him happy.
Whenever I told him what I was reading or working on—regardless of what the project was—he always had insights and experiences that were incredibly relevant and useful. Even when you realized how wrong you had been, you never felt stupid for it.
My wife, who only met him twice (in Barcelona and at our home for dinner) nevertheless declared him her "favorite person ever!"
I cannot pretend that there isn't a selfish aspect to my grief. I treasure every conversation I ever had with Max (which was really only a handful) and I had hoped there would be many more.
My heart goes out to his family and friends around the world. Dave Snowden blogged a lovely remembrance with many tributes in the comment section at Cognitive Edge.
PHOTO: Working in Durham. From left: Pierpaolo Andriani, Jeff Goldstein, Steve Barth, Peter Allen, Bill McKelvey, Max Boisot, Dave Snowden.
As the Space Shuttle program comes to an end with this final flight of Atlantis, I've been thinking again about the value of such lofty endeavors. I published this short essay in KM Magazine in 2003 after the Columbia tragedy.
Why are so many of us so deeply affected by those searing contrails?
Is it possible that—about suffering—they were wrong, the Old Masters? Brueghel painted Landscape with the Fall of Icarus to suggest that even magnificent failures are just a peripheral splash on the vast canvas of disparate industry. "It takes place while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along," WH Auden wrote. But perhaps Brueghel assumed that Icarus fell unnoticed because he flew unnoticed.
Should we soar so high? That question is inevitably asked this week in articles and conversations around the world. We know that there are innumerable innovations with terrestrial applications. We know, too, more about ourselves and our ability to work together in large and small teams despite differences of profession, gender, culture and politics.
But there are larger lessons, as well. Most valuable of these is simply that it can be done. We look up at the blue meadows of the moon and see footprints. We look at the red speck of Mars and see the tracks of a little erector-set robot. We look up when we hear the sonic booms and see men and women commuting to space the way we take the carpool lane, living lives as mundane and as uncertain as the rest of us.
The real knowledge value of programs like the shuttle and the space station are not scratch-resistant Ray-Bans or electronic noses. It's understanding that "impossible" is one of those words (like "hate") that we probably use more often than we should. We are only just beginning to understand how collective forms of confidence and accomplishment impact on an organization's ability. That, too, is knowledge that floats gently to earth.
Yes, Icarus fell. But Daedalus flew on.
(See the original poem and painting HERE)
The difference between travel and tourism is simple. A tourist experiences disconnected sights and sounds and enjoys them without drawing meaning. A traveler roams the earth, digests what he sees and hears, and collects them in a framework of understanding, which he both brings to his travels and deepens with travels. The former is a pleasant interlude in your life. The latter is about life itself. —George Friedman, STRATFOR Founder & CEO
Recently, but not for the first time, I found myself struggling to articulate why something as useful and reliable as science could sometimes be a dangerous distraction from the real answers to important questions—and why, as a visible and explicit process, science often requires too much bandwidth for effective communication. Then I came across this passage from Francisco José Ayala's 2007 Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion:
Science is a way of knowing, but it is not the only way. Knowledge also derives from other sources, such as common sense, artistic and religious experience, and philosophical reflection.
In The Myth of Sisyphus, the great French writer Albert Camus asserted that we learn more about ourselves and the world from a relaxed evening's perception of the starry heavens and the scents of grass than from science's reductive ways.
The anthropologist Loren Eiseley wrote: "The world without Shakespeare's insights is a lesser world, our griefs shut more inarticulately in upon themselves. We grow mute at the thought—just as an element seems to disappear from sunlight without Van Gogh."
Astonishing to me is the assertion made by some scientists and others that there is no valid knowledge outside science. I respond with a witticism that I once heard from a friend: "In matters of values, meaning, and purpose, science has all the answers, except the interesting ones."
Large international non-governmental organizations face extra challenges in knowledge sharing and organizational learning.
I will be leading a workshop at KMWorld 2010 called KM Platforms and Programs in International NGOs on Monday, November 15 from 1:30-4:30pm at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC. My colleagues and I will bring lessons learned from three prominent organizations: the Open Society Institute, Oxfam Great Britain and UN Peacekeeping.
We are inviting other NGOs to bring their experiences to share in an interactive, facilitated session and collaborate on shared sense-making and knowledge creation about effective knowledge and learning strategies optimized for their activities.
Coping with the complexity of today's business environment is not about predicting the future or reducing risk. It's about building the capacity, in yourself, your people, and the organization to adapt continuously and learn speedily, in order to maximize the chances of seizing fleeting opportunities.
Three articles in the May/June 2010 issue of Ivey Business Journal are devoted to the tricky issue of managing complexity in today's global business world. The above quote is from "Coping with Complexity" by Niels Billou, Mary Crossan and Gerard Seijts.
As business leaders, policy makers, the academic community, the media and an outraged public search the rubble of the global economic crisis for clues as to what went wrong, all fingers point to a common perpetrator, poor risk management. But while risk management, or lack thereof, played its part in the disintegration of the world financial system, we contend that another culprit played an even bigger role: complexity, and an inability to cope with it. The unpredictable, unstable, non-linear, and fast-paced nature of the complex interrelationships between nations, firms, and persons that shape the global economic landscape are at the root of today's risk-management challenges.
In "Managing under complexity: Where is Einstein when you really need him?" Gokce Sargut and Rita Gunther McGrath highlight the dangers of reacting to complexity with simplification and warn of the "sensemaking paradox." Instead, they say, managers will need counterintuitive practices and no small amount of humility.
The reality is that to understand any situation at all, we have to make sense of it. We do this by imposing filters on the noisy signals of messy reality. Filters serve the purpose of telling us what is important and what we should pay attention to. Sensemaking is vitally important – without it, we would have no framework for viewing and understanding the world. Sensemaking is also, however, a potential trap. As we filter information through the lens of our existing experiences, key interrelationships and new pieces of data may be missed, leaving us with a poor interpretation of reality.
Steve Barth consults to international government, NGO, academic and corporate clients. Recent work has focused on organizational learning and KM strategies in economic development and peace and security. Award-winning writer specializing in organizational intelligence and knowledge worker productivity.