January 19, 2018

Archives for August 2015

The presence needed for transformational leadership

Two business peopleTransformational leadership i.e. leadership that truly brings out the best in people in a sustainable way requires presence, or rather being present. We need to be involved and connected.

On the other hand…

Transactional leadership that seeks to manage performance just through governance of one kind and another can be conducted in a distant, aloof manner.

In fact…

Distance and aloofness more or less guarantees that the management style can only be transactional because there is no opportunity for a community of trust to develop, and so no opportunity for selfless behaviour to build. And so not much initiative is taken.

Seems obvious when you think about it.

If you want transformation and self-organisation, you might have to live the journey too. You might have to be present—not necessarily active, but definitely present.

Are you an interpreter?

Four people speaking in front of a laptopIt’s conventional to admire the creator of novel work—the ground-breaking innovator.

In fact, much value is added in the interpretation of new ideas for familiar situations. And that’s an art too.

There’s considerable skill in sensing what a person or a group needs next—where they’re at—and delivering the right insight at the right time in the right place and in the right way—interpreting an original source and making it relevant to a person or a team or an organisation so that they act on the knowledge and achieve better results.

There can be a long chain from original research to practical application, and many important roles in between.

Perhaps you fulfil some of them…

Are you an interpreter?

If so, how do you go about your trade?

Discerning patterns, seeing what’s going on

Barely readable street signsHave you ever noticed…?

If you can just faintly hear some music being played in a noisy place… If you know the piece of music, you can make it out, whereas if you don’t, you can’t. It’s just part of the noise.


If you know what some barely visible lettering says, you can read it, whereas if you have no knowledge of what’s written, you can’t decipher it.


If we have some idea of the patterns of behaviour we might expect to see in a situation or an organisation, we can make sense of what’s going on, even with little information. It can even be very obvious.

We might misread things, of course: We do need to be aware of that danger. We might see what we expect to see. But knowing what patterns might arise is a good start.

Contrary to what we usually assume—and as the first two examples show—our sensory experience is actually partly created. We fill in the gaps with what we already know.

What patterns are you looking out for? And how diverse are they? Enough to cover the true span of possibilities?

Fairness—does that mean equality or proportionality?

Traditional weighing scalesIn relationships of whatever kind, there’s potential for getting in a muddle over this: By “fair,” do we mean “equal” or do we mean “in proportion?”

This is a key distinction in moral psychology developed in Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”—one that evolved over the course of the work he describes and, by implication, not perhaps so obvious.

Many of us may expect individual rewards to be in proportion to efforts put in or perhaps outcomes achieved, rather than equal shares for everyone, irrespective of contribution (assuming equal opportunity). But not everyone sees it like that necessarily.

Which of these is “right” isn’t central here…

The point is simply remembering “fairness” means different things to different people and our response to whatever we perceive as fair (or lacking fairness) is rather deep-seated, partly innate and unconscious, and so it’s powerful. It has the potential to drive unexpected division.

What do you mean by “fair” when you use the word?

And do the people around you mean that too?

Could be worth clarifying.

Stating the position or actually addressing the issue?

Four business people in a discussionIt could be that I’m noticing this more for reasons that are particular to me. That said…

It seems to have become more and more common for representatives of some corporate bodies and local and national government to respond to a new question or challenge with a flat assertion of the current position or policy, failing completely to address the issue raised by the stakeholder.

For example, I saw a news report about the case for some individuals in a certain age range and category to be screened for asbestos-related diseases because it would potentially improve outcomes. The official response stated that the relevant advisory authority hadn’t recommended it, therefore, nothing needs to be done. Meanwhile, if you have symptoms, go to your doctor (and hope it isn’t already too late)… matter closed.

I could quote other examples.

I think we’ve got rather too good at this.

It might be a successful short-term defence from the organisation’s point of view but it’s very costly in terms of longer-term goodwill. The disrespect involved is very damaging to the relationship “capital.” No wonder we don’t trust organisations and governments much.

How do you see this?

And is it a mode you employ?

It’s rather easy to dead bat something… Harder to address the issue, though much more commanding of respect.