Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Beyond Linear Leadership

When you add people into the mix things get messy. Isn't it a darn shame that 'those others' ruin our well designed plans, forget to follow policies and don't tow the line?

One of the things that worries me is that we have become so obsessed with measuring things, that we narrow down what we do into small chunks of 'manageboxes'. These boxes allow us to measure something, whether it will have a significant positive impact or not. This mechanistic view holds us back at the very time in the history of the world when different thinking is needed.

In his latest presentation, Sir Ken Robinson talks about 'The Element', which he describes as when natural talent meets a passion. This is made up of ability, aptititude and attitude.

Linear leadership does not develop 'The Element.' It simply shuts people down without considering the many talents they may bring to their organisation. We should instead work on an organic or ecological metaphor, one which understands that things evolve over time, take complex roads, weave back on each other words they get messy.

When I wrote Keeping the Fleas Motivated several years ago I suggested that organisations must have those who think differently, who challenge the status quo, who are what Seth Godin refers to as heretics. I love his quote, in Tribes: " Life's too short to hate what you do all day. Life's way too short to make mediocre stuff. And almost everything that is standard is now viewed as mediocre."

In difficult economic times it is easy to pull back to linear thinking, when what is needed is systems thinking. We are all responsible for moving our organisations forward. To do this we need thinkers of all types, working together and being prepared to make mistakes. Look for the possibilities and ways of producing an environment which is personal rather than standardised. Otherwise mediocrity will prevail.

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