THEORY U: LEADING FROM THE FUTURE AS IT EMERGES

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This blog is from the Presencing Institute, whose co-founder, Otto Scharmer, joined Maureen for an interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future.  It is a summary overview of Theory U and a companion to the interview titled The Essentials of Theory U  that aired on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021.

 

(Cambridge, MA: Society for Organizational Learning, SoL, 2007)

Using his experience working with some of the world’s most accomplished leaders and innovators, Otto Scharmer shows in Theory U how groups and organizations can develop seven leadership capacities in order to create a future that would not otherwise be possible.

Tapping Our Collective Capacity

We live in a time of massive institutional failure, collectively creating results that nobody wants. Climate change. AIDS. Hunger. Poverty. Violence. Terrorism. Destruction of communities, nature, life—the foundations of our social, economic, ecological, and spiritual well-being. This time calls for a new consciousness and a new collective leadership capacity to meet challenges in a more conscious, intentional, and strategic way. The development of such a capacity would allow us to create a future of greater possibilities.

Illuminating the Blind Spot

Why do our attempts to deal with the challenges of our time so often fail? Why are we stuck in so many quagmires today? The cause of our collective failure is that we are blind to the deeper dimension of leadership and transformational change. This “blind spot” exists not only in our collective leadership but also in our everyday social interactions. We are blind to the source dimension from which effective leadership and social action come into being. We know a great deal about what leaders do and how they do it. But we know very little about the inner place, the source from which they operate. And it is this source that “Theory U” attempts to explore.

The U: One Process, Five Movements

When leaders develop the capacity to come near to that source, they experience the future as if it were “wanting to be born”— an experience called “presencing.” That experience often carries with it ideas for meeting challenges and for bringing into being an otherwise impossible future. Theory U shows how that capacity for presencing can be developed.
Presencing is a journey with five movements:

As the diagram illustrates, we move down one side of the U (connecting us to the world that is outside of our institutional bubble) to the bottom of the U (connecting us to the world that emerges from within) and up the other side of the U (bringing forth the new into the world).

On that journey, at the bottom of the U, lies an inner gate that requires us to drop everything that isn’t essential. This process of letting-go (of our old ego and self) and letting-come (our highest future possibility: our Self) establishes a subtle connection to a deeper source of knowing. The essence of presencing is that these two selves—our current self and our best future Self—meet at the bottom of the U and begin to listen and resonate with each other.

Once a group crosses this threshold, nothing remains the same. Individual members and the group as a whole begin to operate with a heightened level of energy and sense of future possibility. Often they then begin to function as an intentional vehicle for an emerging future.

Seven Theory U Leadership Capacities

The journey through the U develops seven essential leadership capacities.

  1. Holding the space of listening
    The foundational capacity of the U is listening. Listening to others. Listening to oneself. And listening to what emerges from the collective. Effective listening requires the creation of open space in which others can contribute to the whole.
  2. Observing
    The capacity to suspend the “voice of judgment” is key to moving from projection to true observation.
  3. Sensing
    The preparation for the experience at the bottom of the U—presencing—requires the tuning of three instruments: the open mind, the open heart, and the open will. This opening process is not passive but an active “sensing” together as a group. While an open heart allows us to see a situation from the whole, the open will enables us to begin to act from the emerging whole.
  4. Presencing
    The capacity to connect to the deepest source of self and will allows the future to emerge from the whole rather than from a smaller part or special interest group.
  5. Crystalizing
    When a small group of key persons commits itself to the purpose and outcomes of a project, the power of their intention creates an energy field that attracts people, opportunities, and resources that make things happen. This core group functions as a vehicle for the whole to manifest.
  6. Prototyping
    Moving down the left side of the U requires the group to open up and deal with the resistance of thought, emotion, and will; moving up the right side requires the integration of thinking, feeling, and will in the context of practical applications and learning by doing.
  7. Performing
    A prominent violinist once said that he couldn’t simply play his violin in Chartres cathedral; he had to “play” the entire space, what he called the “macro violin,” in order to do justice to both the space and the music. Likewise, organizations need to perform at this macro level: they need to convene the right sets of players (frontline people who are connected through the same value chain) and to engage a social technology that allows a multi-stakeholder gathering to shift from debating to co-creating the new.

Theory U Encourages You to Step into the Emerging Future.

Examples of these seven Theory U leadership capacities can be found in a number of multi-stakeholder innovations and corporate applications. The Presencing Institute is dedicated to developing these new social technologies by integrating science, consciousness, and profound social change methodologies.

For more information: www.presencing.com

For a 17 page Executive Summary of the Theory U book, go to www.theoryU.com where you can download a pdf file and print it yourself. Or you can request a free copy, as a small printed and bound booklet, to be mailed to you.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

This article is from the Presencing Institute. Otto Scharmer is a Senior Lecturer at MIT and co-founder of the Presencing Institute. He introduced the concept of “presencing”—learning from the emerging future—in his bestselling books Theory U and Presence. Otto is co-author of Leading from the Emerging Future. His most recent book, The Essentials of Theory U, outlines the core principles and applications of awareness-based systems change.

CC License by the Presencing Institute – Otto Scharmer  https://www.presencing.org/resource/permission.

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

The Magnolia Moonshot 2030 Movement

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This blog was collectively written by the Magnolia Moonshot 2030 Project Founders and is provided by Darcy Winslow, one of the founders.  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Academy for Systems Change and the Magnolia Moonshot 2030 Project that aired on Tuesday, February 16th, 2021.

 

In order to meet the challenges of our time, we need to shift our thinking as individuals and as a society. The profound changes that are necessary today require a shift in our paradigm of thought and a shift in consciousness from an ego-system to an eco-system awareness. The deeper we move into the complex, volatile, and disruptive challenges of the twenty-first century, the more this hidden dimension of leadership moves to center stage. The blind spot in the 20th century toolkit of economics and management can be summarized in a single word: consciousness.

Consciousness is a thread that connects the 3 Divides (attribution to Otto Scharmer); a shift in consciousness will illuminate the interconnections among the Spiritual, Social, and Ecological Divides thus creating the conditions for current realities to transform into our desired common futures.

We are called to live with courage and collective integrity, for our survival and ability to thrive.

Spiritual Divide

Consciousness is our fluid basis for how to proceed with kindness, listening, learning, self-reflection, connection to self, and awareness of other. We have a human crisis resulting from people thinking of self in an egoistic way rather than as a higher Self who sees the bigger picture of us as community. Our aspiration is to support the inherent value of each person and create a flourishing world for all of us. We are warriors of love, calling all like-minded people to join us in changing the paradigm from “me, we, they” to a global and universal “us”.

The Spiritual divide manifests in rapidly growing figures on burnout and depression, which represent the growing gap between our actions and who we really are:

  • 1 person dies every 40 seconds from suicide (World Health Organization). There are 800,000 deaths per year from suicide, which is the leading cause of death in developing countries for people age 15-49. (Institute For Health Metrics And Evaluation, Global Burden Of Disease 2010)
  • Depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy US $1 trillion per year and people with mental health conditions often experience severe human rights violations, discrimination, stigma (WHO)
  • Most disorders classified within mental health — that is depression, anxiety, bipolar and eating disorders  — are more common in women than men. This pattern appears to hold true across most (in some cases all) countries. (org).
  • The annual cost of burnout to the global economy has been estimated to be $323.4 billion. Such costs have led to the World Health Organization predicting a global pandemic within a decade (and now here we are with COVID!).

Social Divide

Empathy is when we can enter into another’s reality without judgement to radically listen, radically see, and radically imagine. This is how we earn the right to be heard. By being witness bearers and showing empathy towards our sisters and brothers we deepen our connectedness. People everywhere will collaborate to create a future where we can heal the social divide(s) and create a world where all people have enough. Our deep connectedness and shared consciousness will guide us to create physical, social, and economic well-being where all can flourish. This can only happen if we are in tune with nature, understanding of our inescapable interconnectedness, and design our ways of living to be in balance. Our deep connectedness and shared consciousness will guide us to find the way back to each other.

Current statistics reflecting the social divide include:

  • The necessary contribution of women is difficult in a world where, despite representing close to half of the world population, women are under-represented in decision-making bodies. This lack of representativeness is significant: in 2016, just 22.8% of the total of national members of parliament and 4% of CEOs of biggest Fortune 500 companies were women. And in 2011, women occupied only 7% of ministries of the environment, energy or natural resources and represented some 3% of those responsible for science and technology.
  • Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are global phenomena. Each regional context is different and victims differ in language and culture. But the experience of exclusion, subordination, violence and discrimination is remarkably similar.  Racism as a worldwide phenomenon requires a worldwide response. (The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance)
  • Access to water and sanitation are recognized by the United Nations as human rights, reflecting the fundamental nature of these basics in every person’s life. Lack of access to safe, sufficient and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene facilities has a devastating effect on the health, dignity and prosperity of billions of people, and has significant consequences for the realization of other human rights.
  • There is enough food to feed 7+B people, but we have a distribution problem: over 1B people have too much food, and over 1B people have too little food.

The Ecological Divide.

The ecological divide describes the fact that humans have organized our economic and social systems largely without regard to ecological limits on a global scale. We are supporting our needs (and in many cases our wants) through degradation of the very systems we need to sustain our species and other species on earth over the long-term.

Through innovations in technology and medicine over the past several centuries, (wo)mankind has successfully extended our natural lifespan and enhanced our quality of life (in developed countries), at the expense of the natural world. We have found ourselves in a ‘negative reinforcing cycle’ and are out of balance with the natural world.

Wealthier developed countries are thriving, while those in the least developed countries struggle to survive day to day while striving for the lifestyle of the (overly) developed countries. This is a moral dilemma as well; if all countries were to achieve our (on average in the US) lifestyle, the collapse of ecosystems would accelerate beyond all scenarios.

The ecological divide relates to the socio-economic divide because the organization of our social and economic systems has a great deal to do with our transgressing the boundaries of earth’s systems; we will have to consciously re-organize these systems if all humans are to have a good life on a sustainable planet. This also requires us to pay attention to equity, inter-generational and international harm, climate justice, and public participation–all socio-economic divide issues.

Ultimately, we need to bring humans back into a consciousness of earth’s limits and how we can have a good quality of life while respecting these limits. We, as individuals and society at large, need to regain congruence between our beliefs and values and how we live and work. This requires both science–to tell us where the limits are and to understand how ecological systems function–and spirit–to value the well-being of humanity and the planet more than our own excessive material consumption. This is where the ecological divide links to the spiritual divide; consciousness, care, and simplicity–all spiritual virtues–will have to be a part of bridging this divide.

There are many examples:

  • We are depleting and degrading our natural resources on a massive scale, using up more nonrenewable precious resources every year. Although we have only one planet earth, we leave an ecological footprint of 1.75 planets; that is, we are currently using 75% more resources than our planet can regenerate to meet our current consumption needs.
  • Burning fossil fuels to generate energy, clearing natural ecosystems for human uses such as development and agriculture, and generating waste that is difficult to dispose of without harming wildlife and ecosystems all contribute to climate change.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

The founders of the Magnolia Moonshot 2030 Project collectively wrote this article, which was provided by Darcy Winslow. Darcy is one of the founders of the Magnolia Moonshot 2030 Project and the President and co-founder of the Academy for Systems Change. The Academy advances the field of awareness-based systemic change to achieve economic, social, and ecological wellbeing. Darcy worked at Nike, Inc. for 21 years and held several senior management positions, most notably starting the Sustainable Business Strategies in 1999 and as Senior Advisor to the Nike Foundation. She serves on the board of The Carbon Underground and The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education.

 

6 Essential Leadership Lessons Learned from Experience

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This blog is provided by Ron Riggio, author and Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College, as part of the International Leadership Association’s interview series.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Becoming a Better Leader: Daily Leadership Development that aired on Tuesday, February 9th, 2021.  Ron recently published a new book called Daily Leadership Development: 365 Steps to Becoming a Better Leader.

 

How to turn experiences into valuable leadership lessons

What is Wisdom?

I found myself pondering this question the other day and I think I have an answer: Wisdom comes from a combination of learning from experience, reflecting deeply on those experiences, and applying the scientific method (that is, trying to find objective support for what you have learned, and/or testing whether what you have learned, or what you think you have learned, is valid).

Here are some leadership lessons that I have learned from the combination of experience, observation, and what we know from the research literature on leadership.

  1. Be Authentic. It is critically important to let others know where you stand on issues. Dealing straightforwardly with others is the key to authenticity. Indeed, authentic leadership is becoming a very popular theory of leadership. Learn more about this here.
  2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Arguably, the biggest mistake that leaders make is under-communicating. Many times leaders believe others know more than they actually do. Make sure to let others know what is going on – the direction the company is taking, any critical changes (particularly those that may affect them), and address any rumors that are going on with information that informs workers. It is nearly impossible to over-communicate.
  3. Don’t Be Stingy with Praise. Too many leaders dole out praise like it is money from their own pocket. Show appreciation for the accomplishments of others – and do it frequently. Research supports the idea that positive reinforcement is extremely effective, and under-used.
  4. The One Hour Rule. This is a more practical lesson and it comes from an informal policy at my previous institution. The “one hour rule” refers to a norm that typical department, committee, or team meetings should be scheduled for no more than one hour. If a longer meeting is needed, people are told in advance. What is the lesson for leaders from this rule? Use your time wisely. Don’t waste others’ time needlessly. If you can get it done in 15 minutes, get it done!
  5. Be Patient, But Not Too Patient. We all work at different paces, and sometimes people take longer to perform a task than we would, or complications arise that delay completion. Learn to be patient with others, but it is also important to not allow unnecessary procrastination. Leaders can cut followers some slack, but not too much.
  6. Be Kind, But Not Too Kind. Leaders need to be aware of the power dynamic and avoid being too overbearing. Kindness can go a long way toward building good leader-follower relationships. It is important, however, for a leader to not allow followers to take advantage of that kindness. More on this here.

What are some of your important leadership lessons learned from experience?

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

This article was originally posted on Psychology Today.

 

About the Author

Ron Riggio is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College. He is the author of more than a dozen books and more than 100 research articles and book chapters in the areas of leadership, organizational psychology, and social psychology. Ron is the former Director of the Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College. He has served on the board of numerous journals and writes the Cutting-Edge Leadership blog at Psychology Today.  At the 2020 International Leadership Association’s annual conference, Ron was one of two people awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Three Problems of Power—Problem Three: Distance and Dehumanization

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This blog is provided by Margaret Heffernan, author of the book, “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together.”  Margaret’s interview is also part of the International Leadership Association Interview Series.   It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together” that aired on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021. The past two weeks have featured the first two problems.  Problem one was Pleasing and problem two was Silence and Blindness.  This is the final week of the series.

 

Problem Three: Distance and Dehumanization

When CEO of Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld was driven from his home to a heliport, then helicoptered into Manhattan, driven in another limo to the bank’s offices where a private elevator sent him up to his office. This ornate commute ensconced him in a physical bubble that no weak signals or accidental encounters could penetrate. This physical manifestation of power may look like luxury but it comes at a cost. The bubble of power seals off bad news, inconvenient detail, hostile opinion and messy reality, leaving leaders free to inhale the rarefied air of pure abstraction. Like the cave dwellers of Plato’s parable, the powerful risk mistaking shadows for reality.  Power inserts distance between those who have it and those who do not. It determines whether you fly in the peaceful isolation of a private jet or the middle row in economy, next to the mother who needs help with her restless child. Power lets you, like the Google founders, arrive at meetings via paraglider, not stuck in San Francisco traffic.

The physical distance experienced by the powerful is amplified by the psychological distance of hierarchies. Frances Miliken, who helped to pioneer the research into organizational silence, also studied how those in power communicate differently from those without it. Her language analysis showed a more common use of abstractions and a tendency to over-optimism. Experimentation showed that people given power demonstrate more stereotyped thinking. Further from the action, reinforced by a sense of their own capability, the combination of power, optimism and abstraction made them more confident of their own judgement. The more cut off from others, the more certain they were of their decisions about people and detail they did not know.

That it is a problem is obvious in catastrophes like the COVID pandemic and Hurricane Katrina or, in the UK, the fire at Grenfell Tower. In each case (and there are many more) big decisions are made by confident, optimistic people who think largely in abstraction. Some even regard this as an asset, as when one executive recently suggested to me that it would be better for layoffs to be decided by leaders too far from the action to know the people impacted by their decisions. Distance, dehumanization were seen as assets.

This is the third problem of power. Its status and rewards erode judgement. This isn’t wholly inevitable; a few leaders I’ve known have had the humility and tenacity to fight it, to reach into, rather than over, the crowd. But it is phenomenally difficult to disbelieve the worship of the crowd. If the world chooses to throw all these goodies my way, it must be because I’m worth it — mustn’t it?

I retain a visceral memory of this from the 1990s. Running tech companies, I saw many of my friends and colleagues get rich fast. They went from pretty humdrum individuals in January to exhilarated millionaires by June. And most of them believed the money.

It confirmed that they were special. They’d always thought that might be true, but here was proof. The rare few just put the money away and carried on before. When I asked them, saying they’d been lucky. They didn’t believe the money, seeing it instead as a market fluke. But most got sucked into a reaffirming circle: more money, more power, more confidence, greater distance from the crowd.

They make — and we make — the same mistake: an attribution error. It’s logical, but not necessarily true, that the success of an organization owes something to its figurehead. But how much? Did GE flourish because of Jack Welch or has it failed because of his legacy? Did Apple succeed after Steve Jobs’s return because of his unique magic, or did his hapless competitors’ lame innovation play a role? In the statistically implausible 41 quarters out of 42 that Microsoft met or beat its market forecast, was that the genius of Bill Gates or of his accounting team? If Johnson & Johnson is so well run, how did its role in the opioid scandal occur? If Fred Goodwin was, as celebrated by a Harvard Business School case study, the “master of acquisition,” why did the Bank have to be rescued by the U.K. government?

You can’t run the experiment. It’s impossible to cut the company in half and run half with one leader and half with another. So it is beguilingly simple to attribute success to the powerful individual at the top. And it is supremely difficult for most people, at the height of their power, to see how much their success owes to circumstance, the talents of others, the weakness of competition and to sheer luck. Easier to believe the money. Easier to believe the power.

Such attribution errors flourish in part because we feed them. Believing that a company or a country succeeds or fails because of one mighty person is simple and alleviates our anxiety. It turns a complex world into a simple narrative: we have only to change the person to change the story. Context, apparently, counts for nothing.

The problems of power are damaging not only for those with power — but for the rest of us too. The more we believe in the leadership myths, the more we absolve ourselves of responsibility and action: just wait for Superman or Superwoman to turn up, and everything will be fine. The costly investment in leadership training (said to be over $300 billion) is a sign not of its effectiveness but our urgent desire to simplify and to believe. Critics argue most of this money has no effect. The reality may be worse than that: worshipping leaders may exacerbate the problem it pretends to fix. As long as we believe in leaders, we need not examine our own failure to act on our values and insight.

Of course, all three problems of power feed each other. Failure to learn to think for oneself makes us more credulous of leadership, and it can paralyze those given power. Absence of conflict and debate perpetuates the problem. And if we make it to the top, years of passivity and conventional wisdom make it likely we will believe in our own celebration. This risks making us more aggressive; it can also make leaders justifiably afraid.

I’ve always been wary of the concept of leadership. In part, this was a language problem: when translated, the words duce and fuhrer had unpleasant connotations. We used to talk about bosses or managers but in the late 1970s, that started to change. This is also the period when American economic inequality began to increase markedly. Since then, the clamor for leadership has grown louder as inequality has become more pronounced. The expectation that a sole individual can, singlehandedly, alter complex realities has inflamed faith and guaranteed disappointment.

It’s time for a reset.

 

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Margaret Heffernan is the author of the best-selling UNCHARTED: How to Map the Future Together, nominated for a Financial Times Best Business Book award. She is a Professor of Practice at the University of Bath, Lead Faculty for the Forward Institute’s Responsible Leadership Programme and, through Merryck & Co., mentors CEOs and senior executives of major global organizations. She is the author of six books and her TED talks have been seen by over twelve million people.

Photo by Grant Durr on Unsplash

Three Problems of Power — Problem Two: Silence and Blindness

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This blog is provided by Margaret Heffernan, author of the book, “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together.”  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together” that aired on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021.  Last week, the blog featured Three Problems of Power – Problem One: Pleasing.  This week will look at problem two and next week will feature problem three.

 

Problem Two: Silence and Blindness

Richard was keen, intelligent, curious, well-read, and overflowing with good intentions. Ask him about his direct reports, he could provide a fulsome picture of each one, and he demonstrated real insight and nuance about their strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and dreams. He didn’t show it much, but he respected and cared for the people who worked for him.

Because Richard was so brilliant, he could solve just about any gnarly problem. But doing so implied that he didn’t believe anyone else could. So one day I suggested that he attend his next meeting and promise to say nothing. He looked puzzled and not a little intimidated, but he promised. What happened?

At first, he said, when an issue arose, he noticed that everyone was waiting for him to solve it. But when he offered no solution, they all scrambled for a while and then proffered their own ideas. These were excellent. What had Richard learned?

“I found out,” he said, smiling, “that they expected me to have the answer.”

What else?

“That they had lots of their own answers. Some of them much better than mine.”

What else?

“That I don’t need to go to all the meetings,” he laughed. Long pause. “That it might be better if I didn’t go to all the meetings…”

Richard had discovered that brilliant though he was, his power stifled the intelligence of his own team. They wanted to please him — and that, they thought, meant agreeing with him. His silence, or absence, liberated them to think for themselves.

One of the biggest traps of power is that the way that others respond to it. Most believe they get ahead by pleasing or, at least, not openly disagreeing. That means they contribute less than they might. This silence suppresses concerns; it also suppresses good ideas.

That they have this effect on people is something many powerful people fail to understand. I remember one CEO, whom I admired greatly, gnashing his teeth with frustration because his people so rarely stepped forward with ideas or initiatives. How did he explain it? He thought they just must be lazy. He himself had no insight into how, quite unconsciously, hierarchy silenced them.

At New York University’s Stern School of Business, Elizabeth Morrison and Elizabeth Milliken researched the phenomenon they call organizational silence. They found that the chief reasons for it are fear (of conflict or disagreement) and futility (I could say something, but it won’t make any difference, so why bother?) This exerts a high cost. Where power induces silence, it leaves decision-makers are blind. Think VW emissions or Boeing safety concerns. It also means many missed opportunities, invisible at the top but frequently obvious further down the hierarchy.

The desire to please, a fear of conflict, and a pervasive sense that only the senior voices count: these beliefs aren’t entirely irrational, so they have to be addressed. In recent years, it’s been fashionable to talk about the need to create a culture of psychological safety, to ensure that people speak up. Safety is crucial. But it’s often impossible to achieve in an age of high unemployment, layoffs, downsizing, and automation. In that context, anyone carrying a high level of personal debt (a mortgage) is already unsafe, and it’s obtuse to belittle or ignore it. That makes it all the more important to find mechanisms where people can see for themselves that it’s safe to be open.

After the poor decision-making that led to the Bay of Pigs fiasco, President Kennedy radically rethought how to develop real honesty and the widest range of options from his advisors. He asked multiple teams to tackle the same question with the same information. He used skip-level meetings so that the more junior diplomats and analysts could debate freely with their peers, something they’d never have done with their bosses present. This ensured that Kennedy had more perspectives and ideas to consider.

When Britain’s National Health Service was plagued with a number of scandals that derived from multiple, often minor, failures that most feared to articulate, nurse Helene Donnelly became an ambassador for cultural change at the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust. She isn’t a boss per se — that helps — but her role is to hear concerns that hospital staff have been unable to get addressed or that they are afraid to raise. She told me that the most important part of her job is to write up the story of how each problem really does get fixed. Positive action is what persuades people not to stay silent.

Why don’t bosses perceive the problem that power confers? Many tell me that they don’t feel themselves to be different. They are, they insist, just ordinary people doing tough jobs. The answer is naïve and inadequate. It’s foolish to imagine that how you see yourself is how others see you. And having power confers the responsibility to understand how it works. Like a weapon or a car, just having it requires insight, control, and finesse.

 

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Margaret Heffernan is the author of the best-selling UNCHARTED: How to Map the Future Together, nominated for a Financial Times Best Business Book award. She is a Professor of Practice at the University of Bath, Lead Faculty for the Forward Institute’s Responsible Leadership Programme and, through Merryck & Co., mentors CEOs and senior executives of major global organizations. She is the author of six books and her TED talks have been seen by over twelve million people.

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

Three Problems of Power

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This blog is provided by Margaret Heffernan, author of the book, “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together.”  It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled “Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together” that aired on Tuesday, January 19th, 2021.

 

The language says it all. ‘Working your way up’, ‘climbing the ladder’ are ways of describing successful careers: emerging from the dank basement to the wide bright vistas atop a hierarchy. Like Beethoven’s prisoners in Fidelio, the journey is from dark to light, from confinement to freedom: “up here alone is light.”

This narrative is so alluring that many who follow it fail to see its pitfalls. The climb changes what you do, what you can see and who you are. So compelling is the story that it’s easy to see such evolution as all positive. It isn’t.

Problem 1. Pleasing

Take Tom, a smart, keen engineer who joined a big energy firm and did well. He never had to apply for promotions, his excellent work ensured that he was chosen. With each bigger project, his skills expanded and he became more knowledgeable, more experienced and better connected. So his career acquired momentum as more people chose him for more projects that attracted more attention and their success more accolades. It was a great ride.

Until right at the top of a public company, he encountered a problem that was novel, at least to him. One of his ExCo colleagues was breaching the firm’s ethical guidelines. Worse still, everyone knew. This bothered Tom, he shrugged it off because it wasn’t, officially, his problem. But it continued to nag at him to the degree that he decided his only option was to leave.

This highly skilled, seasoned, connected, powerful man confronted a problem he didn’t know how to solve. Why was he capable of addressing all kinds of hugely complex issues — but not this one? The answer lay in his ascent.

Sure, he’d developed expertise and networks. But most of all what he had learned was how to please his bosses. Given clear expectations and processes, Tom was superb at understanding and doing exactly what was expected of him. That’s how he got to the top; it’s how most people get to the top. He was, he said, always ‘chosen’; he had never had to take the initiative. But now he was at the top, he was stuck. He had power, but nothing in his career had taught him how to use it.

The problem with pleasing is that it asks the wrong question: not ‘what is the best thing to do here?’ but ‘what does someone else want me to do?’ The first question asks that you think, as Hannah Arendt said, without bannisters. The second question is all bannisters, constraints and entanglements; it impedes thinking. So it’s a chastening thought that the pursuit of success specifically disables independence of mind.

The attraction of bannisters, of course, is that they show you where to go; you are relieved of the burden of decision. So they offer certainty, guarantees that become addictive. Over time, that certainty becomes the necessary quality of a good decision: one destined to succeed. But in an age of uncertainty, the need becomes incapacitating. There are too many unknowns, too much ambiguity. When the route is not clear, when you have to take decisions before all the data is in, the creativity to imagine options becomes fundamental. But a lifetime of pleasing erodes that capability.

At Stanford, the psychologist Philip Zimbardo used to run a class he called ‘deviant for a day’. It’s alarming, he told me, how profoundly we are driven to please those around us. So he required that each of the students do something, for just one day, that contradicted the expectations of the people around them. Some were slovenly, others punctual or late, a few went silent. It’s important, he explained, that individuals find within themselves the capacity to stand outside the expectations and norms of others, if they’re going to be able to think for themselves.

Hierarchies are natural and what makes them so powerful is that nobody needs to define or explain the exchange of power for independence. It’s inferred and self-perpetuated; pecking orders are ubiquitous. But hierarchies conceal a trap: the idea that power will give you freedom. It too often does just the opposite: stripping away the capacity to think freely, make choices and take action.

Next:

Problem Two: Silence and Blindness

Problem Three: Distance and Dehumanization

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Margaret Heffernan is the author of the best-selling UNCHARTED: How to Map the Future Together, nominated for a Financial Times Best Business Book award. She is a Professor of Practice at the University of Bath, Lead Faculty for the Forward Institute’s Responsible Leadership Programme and, through Merryck & Co., mentors CEOs and senior executives of major global organizations. She is the author of six books and her TED talks have been seen by over twelve million people.

Leading During a Crisis: Explosion in Beirut, The Aline Kamakain Story

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Maureen Metcalf, ILI’s CEO and Founder is a Fellow with the International Leadership Association (ILA). In this role, ILA recommends 12-16 interviews for her radio show focusing on innovating leadership. The show focuses on balancing academic excellence in leadership with personal stories of high impact leaders and thought leaders and authors talking about their latest books and frameworks.

The following blog accompanies an interview with Aline Kamakian. This interview, specifically Aline’s Story, was very moving and inspiring. We encourage you to learn more about Aline by listening to her interview titled Thriving During Crisis: A Successful Middle Eastern Businesswoman that aired Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020. If you feel moved to donate during the holidays to a person and organization in Lebanon impacted by the recent explosions, please consider supporting Aline and her efforts to re-open Mayrig to provide jobs for 85 staff.

This is Aline Kamakian’s Story.

As someone who has a master’s degree in business, I recognize that we can learn things in school, from books and lectures, but there are things that only life teaches us.  Being a Lebanese of Armenian origin, I grew up with my grandparents embedded in the stories about my ancestors. Their stories about the resilience and ability to adapt and the respect and gratefulness to the country that accepted them conveyed the values I learned.

On 4 Aug 2020, Beirut was hit by a huge blast.

According to BBC reporting, “The blast that devastated large parts of Beirut in August was one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in history, experts say. The Sheffield University, UK, the team says a best estimate for the yield is 500 tons of TNT equivalent, with a reasonable upper limit of 1.1 kilotons. This puts it at around one-twentieth of the size of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945… The explosion was the result of the accidental detonation of approximately 2,750 tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate. The blast led to some 190 deaths, as well as more than 6,000 injuries.

My restaurant, our offices, my house and my car were all blown to pieces in just a second. The terrace outside of our meeting room looked out over the port just 300 meters further. We were having a management meeting. I don’t know how I survived, standing on the terrace, looking at the fire and fireworks in the port. The next thing I remember was standing over my financial controller and giving him CPR. I don’t know how I knew what to do, reflexes from when I was a girl scout? The blast had injured 25 employees, of which five were left with a permanent handicap. It destroyed most of the restaurant furniture and equipment. The building was still standing, but windows, doors, winter gardens were all shattered.

First, I needed to make sure all my employees were safe and had a roof over their heads. I had never felt a victim, but there was no way I could get back on my feet without external help. So, I decided to open a fundraising page to help us. One week after the blast, we started cooking over 1,000 meals per day in our central kitchen to be distributed among those who lost their homes. We prioritized, first comes the team, holding on to our values, generating income, moving on, and moving fast.

On the 4th of September, just one month after the blast, the restaurant opened its garden and kitchen again. While we were still working hard to repair and rebuild the inside of the restaurant. The first evening that the restaurant was again partly operational, the whole team had dinner on the Mayrig terrace.

Here is the reporting about the restaurant:

 

When 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate tore through Beirut, only a highway separated the city’s port where the explosives were stored from 282 Pasteur Street. This is where Mayrig, the famed Armenian restaurant known as much for its delectable sour cherry kebab as preserving Armenian culture in one of the diaspora’s strongholds, has stood since 2003.

Located in Beirut’s lively Gemmayzeh neighborhood in a building from when Lebanon was under Ottoman rule, the restaurant was destroyed.

It joined the rest of the city that stood in ruins, where over 170 people have died, thousands more injured, and an estimated 300,000 left homeless. The decimation the blast caused came on top of a Beirut that was already in political and economic crisis. The Lebanese pound was tumbling to shocking lows that have caused widespread poverty. Electricity and food shortages are the norms.

But the destruction of Mayrig stung beyond a crumbling building: around 85 families, whose livelihoods depended on the restaurant, were suddenly left jobless and homeless. Not a single staff member escaped unscathed, and some are still in critical condition.

And then there’s the other, more existential loss: the idea that an institution fighting to preserve and progress Armenian culinary heritage, which has always teetered on the brink of either being forgotten, denied, or erased, could disappear forever.

“Mayrig” means “mother” in Armenian. For the last 17 years, this woman-owned culinary institution has brought centuries-old recipes from inside the homes of the Armenian community in Lebanon to a restaurant enjoyed by both local and international patrons and built on those traditions to create new dishes. Staffed by the same Armenian mothers who have always led the preservation and passing down of food culture to future generations through their labor and knowledge, “Mayrig” was founded by Aline Kamakian.

Being at “Mayrig,” she said, is being alive.

Her grandparents, Armenian Genocide survivors, found refuge in Lebanon, becoming part of the Lebanese-Armenian diaspora, which now numbers over 150,000 and has contributed significantly to the social, political, and cultural life of the city while keeping Western Armenian heritage alive. Bourj Hammoud, one of the first places refugees settled, became the historic center of the Lebanese-Armenian community. The area was heavily impacted by the explosion.

Aline’s early Story

I was five years old when the war broke out in Lebanon. I have seen my father as an entrepreneur struggling to raise his family and keep us safe during the war. This taught us to be creative and find means under pressure and create solutions to the absence of necessary provisions such as electricity and water and fundamental civil human rights. For example, to open my restaurant in 2003, I had to build my water reservoirs, bring a generator to produce electricity, ensure the team’s transportation and basic needs, and find other locations during the war.

Preparation for Management During Crisis

In the war in 2006, we took three days to find a safe spot up in a mountain resort. This move made it possible to guarantee the continuity of the restaurant and the employees’ income. We had to build our reserve in fuel; bring walkie-talkies because there was no phone; secure a safe location for employees to sleep, and secure kitchen equipment from the kitchens of friends and family. We created a restaurant in 1-weeks’ time. The most important tools were: sharing information, make the team part of the decision making, delegate responsibilities. In these circumstances, it is about operating a restaurant and the security of the team. Almost half of them were living in dangerous areas. The team managed to work and did so without days off, without hours to rest to cover for the others. We agreed that we would see how to cover extra hours or vacation after we passed this crisis. We learned to adapt to respond to this disruption quickly. It turned out to be a right decision because it generated enough income to secure the salaries, and it offered the chance for the employees to continue working.

Every two years, we have a minor to big crisis that asks for our adaptation. In 2019 the revolution started after three years of financial difficulties and corruption scandals. The challenges were different and led to significant hardship.

  • The internal security was terrible; roads were blocked, breaking and burning buildings and public property.
  • The banking sector turned into an unpredictable mess. Lebanon was known for its strong banking sector and was the saving place for all the Lebanese diaspora. And suddenly, the banks stopped giving out money. There was a limitation on cash withdrawals and transfers. The impact was dramatic since Lebanon is mainly an importing country. Its own industries ae very limited and the country has very little raw materials.
  • Inflation towered: Lebanon rates now 3rd worldwide after Venezuela with an inflation rate of 365%. The challenge is that it is not just inflation but also inflation that the government doesn’t recognize. There is an official rate, a rate from the banks, and a black-market rate.
  • Covid-19 led to lockdowns in many countries; in Lebanon rules were not applied evenly over the whole territory as some political parties allowed their followers to disregard the rules. COVID spread fast in autumn, and governmental regulations are often contradictory from one week to the next, unequally applied and harmed first of all the whole Food and Beverage sector.
  • With a government that is corrupt, and incapable comes the explosion of 4 August. The government resigned, but since it hadn’t formed a new government yet, the old government continued in the same corrupt, incapable way.

How to lead in such a context?

University lectures didn’t teach us to navigate this type of crisis. I didn’t learn a to-do list.

In the restaurant business, never compromise on the quality. The challenges were to keep the quality. We couldn’t look at saving money during this catastrophic crisis. We were committed to living our values during the crisis.

  • We needed to keep the employees safe and secure cash. I created a pop-up project in Saudi Arabia and took part of my staff there for three months.
  • We were committed to maintaining food quality. The aim is to find the best product at the best price, not the cheapest product. We needed to keep the team quality-oriented, encourage sharing resources, information, and pay attention to finding the best ingredients.
  • I communicated very openly, explained the companies’ situation, and explained the difficulties of living in Saudi Arabia. We went as one team and worked together to maintain the team as in Lebanon, there was no income.

My goal was to jump on opportunities that would allow me to take care of my family and my team! I didn’t have all the info, but the circumstances required me to keep going. I knew I needed to be transparent, genuine, honest, and always make values-based decisions. In this case, I was focused on my team’s safety, health, and economic well-being.

Again I did the same thing: first comes the team, holding on to your values, generating income, moving on and moving fast.

 

Aline Kamakian acted in the best interest of her team during the most challenging experience of her life. She truly exemplifies someone who is living her values! She supports the families of the employees who are unable to work and who continue to require significant medical treatment. During our call, she deeply inspired me as a leader and person who acted as her best self during this crisis. We often look to movies for superheroes. I believe Aline is a real-life superhero. Her actions inspire and invite all of us to act with courage, integrity, and selflessness. To support her campaign, please consider donating to the Mayrig Family Go Fund Me campaign.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Aline Kamakain began her career as an insurance broker at the age of 18 to put herself through college. She graduated with a double major in Masters in Finance and Marketing, Aline’s skills as an insurance broker allowed her to build one of Lebanon’s top 9 Brokerage Firms. All through her successes, Aline never forgot her love for food but most importantly she never forgot her Armenian roots. In June 2003, she opened “Mayrig” an avant guardiste traditional Armenian restaurant to introduce to all those who appreciate homely, healthy and tasty food, the forgotten flavors of Ancient Armenia. Aline was also voted Women Entrepreneur of the Year 2014 in the Brilliant Lebanese Awards. She is a board member of the Lebanese Franchise Association as well as a board member of the Lebanese League of Woman in Business and a successful candidate of the 2014 Vital Voices Fellowship Program.

Photo by rashid khreiss on Unsplash

 

Better Leadership, Positive Peace and More Positive Cultures

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This blog is provided by Mike Hardy, Board Chair of the International Leadership Association and Professor at Coventry University, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations.  It is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Better Leadership to Promote the Positives in Peace and Culture that aired on Tuesday, October 27th, 2020.

 

Of all the consequences of effective and ethical leadership, a positive impact on peace and peacefulness for us all is the one that matters to me most. The quest for better leadership is a continuing one, and the needs and urgencies for positive impact grow with intensity each year.

As Board Chair of the International Leadership Association I have watched, this year, with humility and astonishment how teams of scholars, business leaders, practitioners and (some) policy makers have strained sinews to elaborate and articulate how those with influence can use it better, and how those with reach can reach more and further.

At the close of the ILA’s Ottawa Global Conference in 2019 I observed how this quest for improvement must be a movement and not a moment. This continuing work needs to be distracted by moments but never stopped by events. We could not have foreseen the unprecedented events of 2020, the challenges for communities and policy-makers alike. But we must remain true to our commitment that better leadership can push us all towards a better world. And we must not be too worried about precise and constraining definitions; better leadership must not just be about doing the right things…but it must also embrace doing things in the right way –a commitment to ethics as well as effectiveness. In the same way a better world must include conditions more likely to deliver both a positive peace and more positive cultures.

A positive peace is far more than the mere absence of violence and conflict. It is a way of being, a set of attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peacefulness in and between communities and societies. Like bad leadership it is often much easier to point out the negatives, the absence of peace. Similarly, positive culture is more than a description of characteristics and identities. It is a set of values, behaviours and attributes that enable and promote human flourishing, reinforce collaborative compassion and peaceful co-existence. We are still struggling to secure both. Both are critical factors for human flourishing –with peace and in peaceful times we can begin to address many of the sources of human insecurity- but often we remain more aware of its absence than its existence. And a positive culture is also elusive –a culture that promotes civic awareness, and participation, social equity and the well-being of a community, hence peacefulness for families and neighbourhoods, can often be more difficult to observe than a malevolent culture that strengthens some groups to initiate and perpetuate exclusion and at times violent conflict.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare our vulnerabilities, divisions, falsehoods and brutal inequalities. Since this global human crisis took its toll on all of us – the forces of division and hate too have been placing the lives of vulnerable communities including religious and ethnic minorities, migrants, women, children and youth, in peril. Even old people and those with disabilities have not been spared. It is especially disheartening to witness a surge in hate speech, xenophobia, racism and many forms of discrimination. These deep fissures in the fabric of our societies weakens our resolve for peace and question what it is about our culture that creates so much room for insecurity.

So, our agenda for better leadership is more vital than ever as a part of a change agenda that promotes the positives in both peace and culture. I have been drawn to a powerful thought from this moment for our movement; a thought captured in a big question:  When this is all over –how do we want the world to be different?

As we battle the COVID-19 pandemic, and the many associated challenges of rising job-losses, deepening economic inequalities, the alarming increase in hate crimes across the world, we need to look beyond the moment and look to how culture and its development can help create a better world of tomorrow.   We need to face up to the real and gloomy conclusion that the distrust and fractured relationships in our neighbourhoods that feel so current in our culture have a common core: a real and hostile divide between people who are regarded as different; a dehumanisation of the “other”.  We seem to have a culture that looks to hold someone else responsible for the moment in which we find ourselves. Despite the crises that we face, we are nowhere near being able to answer this question about how we want the world to be. We know where we do not want to go and be: our social capital –relationships and networks in our communities that encourage calm and harmony, must help rebuild the confidence that the generations that follow will have more not fewer opportunities. And we must restore the beliefs that we once had by default that our created health, education and even financial systems, cherished institutions and welfare state are more than illusions. We must actively banish the dark forces than breed exclusion and divide.

Positive peace and positive cultures matter: a more equal, inclusive culture supports a safer, kinder and more prosperous society. Specific policies to meet the urgent needs of less advantaged groups can deliver a fairer world and lay the foundations for economic recovery and build resilience to future crises.

This is a moment when the convergence of energies towards better leadership and those towards positive peace can create provoke some positive change for the lives of people worldwide. This is not a small agenda -and it is quite a backdrop for our work in growing knowledge and understanding of leadership for a better world. A future world with positive peace and positive culture will help us to re-emphasise our belief in the importance of hope, and it will be through hope we can see evidence of a better future. But even hope will not bring the different world we wish for… that needs direct actions and a new direction and these require more effective and strongly ethical leadership.

Better leadership has two important roles to play: it must help us all to make sense of the turbulences and uncertainties, help shine a clarifying light on our challenges, and it must help us manage the changes that we need and that are taking place.

No small job then! And a compelling reason to make sure that you attend the ILA’s 2020 Global Conference –“Leading at the Edge”

Leading at the Edge
22nd Annual Global Conference
5-8 November 2020 | A Live Online Virtual Event
http://www.ila-net.org/2020Global

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Professor Mike Hardy is the Founding Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, in the UK. After a distinguished career, he returned to the academic world in 2011 as Professor of Intercultural Relations at Coventry University. Mike is active with UNESCO and the UN Alliance of Civilizations; he is currently lead advisor to the World Forum for Intercultural Dialogue in Baku, the World Peace Forum in Indonesia and directs the RISING Global Peace Forum at Coventry. Professor Hardy has been twice honoured, awarded the Order of the British Empire in 2001 for his peace-building work in the Middle East, and appointed a Companion of Honour of St Michael and St George in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, in June 2010, for his work internationally in Intercultural Dialogue. Mike is a trustee of The Faith and Belief Forum the leading interfaith charity in the UK and Board Chair of the US-based International Leadership Association.

 

Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal, Beyond Left, Center and Right – Interdependence a Vision for 2020

This intro reflects a personal note from Maureen Metcalf. During this tumultuous time in US life, when we are seeing protests based on the death of George Floyd and many others at the hands of police, I wanted to share both the interview with Henry Mintzberg and his recommendations on building families, communities, organizations, and societies that acknowledge our interdependence. I want to express my personal sadness for this unnecessary atrocity and extend an invitation to all members of our community to find a peaceful path forward to address systemic injustice. We each have a role to play in every decision and action we take. Some of our readers influence large enterprises and others influence quietly in your communities or families. Every individual matters! Every act of kindness and support impact others. Our thoughts, words and deeds ripple through the world.

This acknowledgment of interdependence and public commitment to treat one another according to these truths will allow us to first manage our personal behavior then build societies that support balance, respect, and dignity for all citizens. Whether you lead in an official role or just lead yourself and your life, I strongly encourage you to look at how you treat everyone. It is easy to be kind to those we respect, now, think about someone you dislike. How can you express your different perspective and even disapproval of their behavior while concurrently maintaining their dignity and yours? I challenge all of our readers and listeners to find the express your best selves during this time. I will be doing the same. The Innovative Leadership Institute has accepted the Declaration of Interdependence as our aspirational statement for how we operate internally toward one another and how we work with all of our stakeholders!

This blog is provided by Dr. Henry Mintzberg. It is taken from the website https://www.ourinterdependence.org/ and used with permission. This blog is a companion to his interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, Rebalancing Society: Radical Renewal, Beyond, Left, Center, Right which aired on 1/21/20.

How to restore balance in this lopsided world?

Encouraging is that so many concerned people are engaged in so many constructive activities—whether to restore social justice, reverse the change in climate and the decline in democracy, or build the social economy—and that so many more people are ready to go.

Missing, however, has been a guiding vision, a statement of purpose as a way forward—toward a consolidated movement for global reformation.

This is why a group of us developed this Declaration of our Interdependence. Please read it, and if you agree with it, sign it, and share it widely.

Let this be a happy new year—for 2020 vision.

The Story of This Declaration

This story can be traced back to 1991, when Henry Mintzberg, a professor of management at McGill University in Montreal, visited Prague just as the communist regimes were collapsing in Eastern Europe. Western pundits at the time were proclaiming the triumph of capitalism, but from here it looked like balance had triumphed, over the imbalance. The communist regimes were severely out of balance, with too much power concentrated in their public sector governments, whereas the successful democracies of the West had maintained a relative balance of power across their public sector governments, private sector businesses, and—crucially—plural sector communities. This misunderstanding would drive the Western democracies themselves out of balance, in favor of private sector markets. These thoughts were outlined in a 1992 article, and eventually published in a 2015 book entitled Rebalancing Society.

Irene is a Canadian manager who has worked in the private and plural sectors. After reading an early draft of this book, she said “I’d like to do something. I just don’t know where to start.”  This became The Irene Question in the book, and has occupied much of Henry’s attention ever since. What can each of us do, and what can all of us do—in our communities, associations, businesses, and governments? The answers, it turns out, are numerous—witness all the activities of concerned people the world over, from marching in protests to growing their social economies. Lacking, however, has been a vision to consolidate these efforts into a widespread movement for global reformation.

Toward this end, in February of 2019, nine people gathered at a retreat near Montreal, out of which came a map to visualize balance across the sectors, a table to order various ideas for action, and the decision to create a declaration of interdependence. On the drive back to Montreal from the retreat, Henry and Jeremiah Lee, a consultant in Boston, went through the clauses of the American Declaration of Independence, one by one, and began to draft clauses for today’s interdependence, using the wording of the original declaration where helpful. Many drafts later, the nine of us who participated in the creation of this document (listed first in the signatories) agreed that this declaration was ready to be posted—for 2020 vision.

 

The Declaration of Our Interdependence

For two centuries, the American Declaration of Independence served as the model to grow democracy. Now our world has reached the limits of growth driven by the pursuit of individual rights at the expense of shared responsibilities. Faced with the threats of warming, weapons, waste, and the lopsided distribution of wealth, we must declare our interdependence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created dependent—on each other, our earth, and its climate—endowed with the inalienable responsibility to maintain justice, liberty, and affiliation for all. Thus our societies must sustain balance across public sector governments that are respected, private sector businesses that are responsible, and plural sector communities that are robust. Some societies retain this balance; others have lost it; many never had it. We propose the following resolutions to guide the rebalancing of society:

Balance begins when each of us decides how we shall become part of the solution. By doing nothing, we remain part of the problem.

We advance to action in our communities, networked to consolidate a global movement for peaceful reformation.

We commit to the ideals of social conscience, fair trade, and good government, to replace the dogma of imbalance—that greed is good, markets are sufficient, and governments are suspect. We explore our human resourcefulness by resisting our exploitation as human resources.

We build worthy institutions in all three sectors of society—departments in government, enterprises in business, associations in communities—from the ground up, with widespread engagement that carries individual leadership into collective communityship.

At the tables of public policy, we strive to replace the compromises of self-interest with the coalescing of common interest.

We challenge the rampant corruption that is legal as vigorously as we expect our governments to prosecute the overt corruption that is criminal.

Sustainable global balance requires substantial global government. We call on all democratic nations to rally for lasting peace, by containing any power that aims to dominate while holding economic globalization in its place, namely the marketplace.

These resolutions require concerted action, not by centrally orchestrated planning so much as through a groundswell of initiatives by concerned citizens the world over, to restrain our worst tendencies while encouraging our best. For the future of our planet and our progeny, this is the time to get our collective act together.

As one people indivisible under one big sky,
we pledge to defend balance in this priceless world.

 

You can sign the declaration here.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

 

About the Author

Henry Mintzberg is a writer and educator, mostly about managing originations, developing managers, and rebalancing societies, which is his current focus. Henry sits in the Cleghorn Chair of Management Studies at the Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University in Montreal.

He has authored 20 books, including Simply Managing and Bedtime Stories for Managers, which have earned him 20 honorary degrees. Henry co-founded the International Masters Program for Managers as well as a venture CoachingOurselves.com, novel initiatives for managers to learn together from their own experience, the last in their own workplace.

Henry may spend his professional life dealing with organizations, but he spends his private life escaping from them—mostly in a canoe, up mountains, and on a bicycle. You can find out more about his adventures on mintzberg.org, which includes his blog.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Managing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

The following blog is provided by Carrie Spell-Hansson. It is a companion to her interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Diversity Training Then and Now: What Has Changed? that aired on March 31st, 2020.   This interview was part of the 12-week series from the International Leadership Association.

 

We can all agree that technology has made the world appear smaller. Managing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) remains a significant challenge for many organizations. To succeed in today’s environment, organizations must commit to developing an inclusive culture.

Increasingly, companies are working with and managing people who are spread out not only within countries but also across borders and oceans. Managers are managing people from more diverse geographies, cultures, demographics, and backgrounds than ever before. People from a variety of backgrounds must work together— one-on-one and in teams—across locations that may or may not be formally linked.

Organizational leaders need additional skills to manage this changing, diverse workplace. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion experts have the task of teaching the inclusive leadership/management skills needed in today’s multicultural work environment. Our job is to prepare leaders and managers to value differences among employees, external clients, and customers so that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

In an article in SAGE Open, Patrick & Kumar define diversity as “a set of conscious practices that involve understanding and appreciating interdependence of humanity, cultures, and the natural environment; practicing mutual respect for qualities and experiences that are different from our own; … recognizing that personal, cultural, and institutionalized discrimination creates and sustains privileges for some while creating and sustaining disadvantages for others; and building alliances across differences so that we can work together to eradicate all forms of discrimination.”

Building a diverse workforce along with an equitable and inclusive culture requires real change and implementation of proven best practices. From my years of experience and research I’ve learned that organizations whose DEI efforts has achieved the greatest impact have all found that the initial three best practices are:

  • Leadership commitment– Many organizations have relegated the task to HR or newly developed roles and/or departments entitled Chief Diversity Officer or manager. Chances are they are qualified to create great DEI programs for the organization. I have found in most organizations without senior leadership support lasting change will not happen. Through the commitment of the leadership, organizations can give those departments assigned to the task the backing to ensure DEI initiatives rise to the level of priority needed to affect change.
  • Establish a solid foundation around the commitment and importance of DEI – Leadership must develop a clear position on DEI. DEI commitment requires communication and is an organization-wide change initiative.  A clearly defined position is essential. Many organizations have established diversity committees and/or task forces to move the DEI vision forward. These groups represent all facets of the organization including senior leadership. One of the many tasks they may be chargedwith is to develop the organization’s diversity statement.
  • Metrics for success– The most effective way to help move an organization forward and provide a measurable, long-term impact is centered around what I call the Three A’s: “Analysis—Assessment—Action.” Here’s a look at each element:
    • Analysis. This stage isn’t just about asking questions. It’s about asking the right questions. The initial goal is to capture the issues, concerns, and barriers currently existing within the organization and use that knowledge to develop a strategic diversity plan to address them. The plan should outline the specific steps necessary to reach the agreed-upon organizational goals.
    • Assessment. Generally, an organizational climate study, cultural audits, self-assessments, and one-on-one, and group interviews are beneficial in capturing the existing climate. Both quantitative and qualitative measures of the D&I climate should be used.
    • Action. Based on the analysis and assessment, the organization decides the appropriate proven best practices to implement. Some examples include:
      • Conduct organization-wide training tailored to each level—that is, leadership team, managers, and employees. When possible, separate the groups so that each feels free to open up and discuss relevant issues.
      • Provide data to help leaders and managers see the correlation between DEI and productivity and employee engagement
      • Develop a consistent operational definition of diversity and inclusion.
      • As part of the organization-wide training, include a discussion of perceptions and how our perceptions unconsciously shape how we treat and respond to others.
      • Illustrate the positive impact of cultural differences, an area that is commonly overlooked.
      • Acknowledge differences, define what the differences are, and leverage those differences within the organization.

Achieving a high-performing, inclusive organization is a journey. The DEI expert and the leadership team must develop milestones and target dates to assess where they are (actual) with where they want to be (projected). With that information, they can develop SMART goals for reaching the desired destination.

 

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About the Author

Carrie Spell-Hansson is the executive director and founder of The Folke Institute for Transformative Learning and an expert in diversity and inclusion. TFI provides training and development, coaching, and research in diversity and inclusion, communication, cross-cultural and gender competencies, and leadership and management development both domestically and internationally. She is a sought-after speaker and a top-rated facilitator of communications, management, and leadership courses for American Management Association. She draws on her extensive years of experience in the field, using both professional and personal insights in her dynamic workshops and presentations. Spell-Hansson has been the subject matter expert on D&I for several organizations, including AMA.