"We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and a mystery."
H.G. Wells

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Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 631

Estimated reading time:  4.0 minutes


It was Thanksgiving here in Canada this past weekend. I am very grateful for this community of conversation and exploration. Thank you for your continued engagement and encouragement in our work.


These are challenging and difficult times for all of us in leadership roles. In the Autumn 2015 edition of Strategy and Business there is a great article on the Future of Management. The authors see three breakthroughs occurring; a self management, wholeness and evolutionary processes. Self-management is about peer relationships and autonomy to get work done in the best way, not necessarily in the prescribed way. Wholeness is about creating and enhancing space for people to be who they are (as opposed to simply doing what they do) at work. Evolutionary processes are about seeing the organization as a living, growing, learning and developing organism.


I am thrilled to see these predictions, and I wish such organizations on everybody. And let’s be clear, to some degree such dreams may doomed to failure as they are either window dressing or misunderstood by participants.     


I have worked and served as a consultant many organizations and have all too often seen Self Management fall apart when a crisis (as defined by the people with power in the organization) arises and they step in to fix “the chaos”. Or Self Management is sometimes confused with everyone is equal and every decision needs to be made by consensus, thus creating chaos. Sometimes people are in your organization because they want to a job, their wholeness is really to be found elsewhere. 


I have a great friend who got an office job at the age of 55, after 35 years as an actor because he wanted benefits. His vocation is as an actor, he is whole on stage, not working for this organization. To suggest that he bring his whole self to work is at best disingenuous. 

Evolutionary processes are great until the shareholders, or the stakeholders want to focus on efficiencies. Biological processes can take some time, and may not be fast enough for quarterly results. I often think too of the old Jethro Tull song, Bungle in the Jungle when people talk about organizations as living organisms: “He who made kittens put snakes in the grass.” The natural world is often a very scary place and we would be wise to be careful about setting it up as a the model for our businesses.


And I do welcome this thinking. For our departments and organizations some takeaways are:


Self Management, the more autonomy that a group of people have, the more creative and productive they will be. Trying to control people is a fool’s errand. People generally respond better to direction than to being directed.


Wholeness, we will work on our vocations for hours without ceasing, and if your organization happens to finds a person whose vocation matches with a job, hold on to that person for dear life. Do not however try to force wholeness on others.


Evolutionary Processes, if they are to be really entrenched in your business   will challenge deep rooted assumptions like competition, and even private ownership. The planet is not in competition for gain; the living organisms around us eat only what they need. They do not have mutual funds or stock options. They do not own a home, they thrive in relationship. It is a scary world, but not an unfair or unjust one; those are human conceptions. It is not about survival of the fittest, it is about those most responsive to change. And you and I are living in a revolutionary time.



I’m curious to read of your thinking on these three ideas?