When my friend Xavier took an interest in my master’s thesis –that was a few years ago ;)– he started suggesting books and journal articles that he thought might be useful to my research. Soon thereafter I started doing the same whenever I bumped into something I thought might be useful to his doctoral dissertation (and later to his research and classes).
I also began doing this to other friends and colleagues. It had been (and still is) a great experience for me and I wanted others to experience the same.
This has been going on for decades now. Of course, paper cuttings and photocopies have become emails with links and attachments.
I am thinking it is time to broaden the circle. And that is why I am creating a monthly newsletter.
The content of the newsletter will follow my consultancy practice and intellectual pursuits: leadership development and executive coaching, that is, people managing themselves, others, their team, and their organization.
My hope is that as a subscriber to the newsletter you will also become a contributor of material that might be interesting to other subscribers. Please send your suggestions by replying to the newsletter email you receive – subscribe here.
The strategist: leadership as a game of chess. These people are good at dealing with developments in the organization’s environment. They provide vision, strategic direction and outside-the-box thinking to create new organizational forms and generate future growth.
The change-catalyst: leadership as a turnaround activity. These executives love messy situations. They are masters at re-engineering and creating new organizational ”blueprints.”
The transactor: leadership as deal making. These executives are great dealmakers. Skilled at identifying and tackling new opportunities, they thrive on negotiations.
The builder: leadership as an entrepreneurial activity. These executives dream of creating something and have the talent and determination to make their dream come true.
The innovator: leadership as creative idea generation. These people are focused on the new. They possess a great capacity to solve extremely difficult problems.
The processor: leadership as an exercise in efficiency. These executives like organizations to be smoothly running, well-oiled machines. They are very effective at setting up the structures and systems needed to support an organization’s objectives.
The coach: leadership as a form of people development. These executives know how to get the best out of people, thus creating high performance cultures.
The communicator: leadership as stage management. These executives are great influencers, and have a considerable impact on their surroundings.
I found this quote in my notes. And it coincides with my current reading of Tomas Sedlacek‘s Economics of Good and Evil. Sedlacek was an economic advisor to Vaclav Havel. Although I have not finished reading the book, I can already recommend it. More on the book and its thesis in a future post.
[Vaclav] Havel embodied the guidelines of creative defense with wit, wisdom, and the shortcomings of a man. He inspired people with a bold algorithm, a mantra really: living in truth. In an era of cryptic truths, so too was the very notion of “living in truth”. After 1989, he became the first anti-political president of the Czech Republic and the planet; he remains so to this day the bearer of a political legacy not so much shrouded in failure as indifference to power. Yet, he was never powerless, not for a moment.
Who in New York, Baku, or its affiliate, well-to-do cities of East and West dares brave the consequence for something greater than a slogan, or greater than themselves? To be a dissident has reached the point of cliché if only because human rights is all too often the case of a competing elites, alienated from “the people”; to be imprisoned does not necessarily mean you speak for human rights, but it does mean, if only for a moment, that you spoke for yourself.
Yet in many societies, this remains a grave crime. To do so creatively, brilliantly, and in a way in which the humor never fades from the voice, the laughter never subsides, and the constant cackle is one that echoes in the executioner’s chamber as opposed to in society, the inmate’s cell and among those who have struggled to know the difference between the two — this is the gift Havel gave.
Our obsession with leadership, of any kind, causes us to build organisations that are utterly dependent on individual initiative. We do not allow them to function as communities. So when they fail, we blame the leader, and seek a better one. Like drug addicts, each time we need a bigger hit.
Consider that ubiquitous organisation chart, with its silly boxes of “top”, and “middle”, and bottom managers. How come we never say “bottom managers”? This is no more than a distorted metaphor. It tells us that we are fixated on who has authority over what and whom. The painting may not be the pipe, but to most of us, the chart has become the organisation.
Isn’t it time to think of our organisations as communities of cooperation, and in so doing put leadership in its place: not gone, but alongside other important social processes.
[O]bsession with leadership is the cause of many of the world’s problems. [L]et us get rid of the cult of leadership, striking at least one blow at our increasing obsession with individuality. Not to create a new cult around distributed leadership, but to recognize that the very use of the word leadership tilts thinking toward the individual and away from the community. We don’t only need better leadership, we also need less leadership.
Je me souviens toujours des mots de Platon selon lequel au pouvoir il faut des gens qui ne veulent pas gouverner. C’est exactement le cas de Havel.
Il a toujours, tout au long de sa présidence, beaucoup réfléchi sur lui-même, il a fait beaucoup de choses pour se défendre de devenir un politicien professionnel. Il a toujours douté de lui-même, et parfois avec ses amis il avait même l’air d’avoir honte d’être au pouvoir.
J’ai lu quelque part une phrase d’Arthur Miller qui dit que c’était « le premier président surréaliste au monde », est-ce une bonne définition ?
« Oui, il est toujours resté un homme. C’était délicieux de le voir dans une négociation importante en tant que président, il a toujours su s’adresser à ses partenaires d’une manière tellement amicale et même avec de l’humour. Cela a fait son succès, non seulement ses belles idées qu’il savait énoncer mais également son attitude amicale, toujours avec ce léger sourire, parfois avec de l’humour. Son autorité ne s’imposait jamais. »
The place to start is America’s executive suites, which should be cleared of mercenaries in order to encourage real leadership. That is the easy part: get rid of the obscene compensation packages and watch the mercenaries disappear. People who care about building and sustaining decent enterprises – and who understand that doing so is a team exercise – can then take over. (…)
Public support should be shifted from protecting large established corporations to encouraging the growth of newer enterprises. And startups should be discouraged from rushing into the embrace of the stock market’s short-sighted analysts and many an established corporation should be encouraged to escape that embrace. At the same time, regulation and taxation should be used to rein in disruptive day trading and other exploitative speculation that crowds out sustainable investment and disrupts regular business activities.
“Invert, always invert.” Turn a situation or problem upside down. Look at it backward. What’s in it for the other guy? What happens if all our plans go wrong?
Where don’t we want to go, and how do you get there? Instead of looking for success, make a list of how to fail instead — through sloth, envy, resentment, self-pity, entitlement, and the mental habits of self-defeat. Avoid these qualities and you will have success.
Tell me where I’m going to die, that is, so I don’t go there.