07 February 2009

Flying Solo Again: A New Type of Leadership

A few months ago, TVO launched their Flying Solo series in which very short excerpts from conversations between the person, and producer Wodek Szemberg, are posted online, and broadcast as TV interstitials. My first one was on belief that I blogged about here. In the second Flying Solo excerpt, I muse about a new type of leadership that has been exemplified by now-President Barack Obama. (I recorded this conversation in March, 2008, long before he was even a confirmed Presidential candidate.)

Referent leadership is indeed the most powerful form of leadership and, in my view, the only form that is truly consistent with a UCaPP world. Leaders who must be infallible, decisive (meaning coming to a quick, independent decision), and always consistent (thereby "proving" their infallibility, taken as a proxy for credibility) are artefacts of Industrial Age thinking. By creating the right conditions in a UCaPP organization, collaborative leadership is not only possible, but - according to some of the findings of my research - remarkably efficient, effective, resilient, and yes indeed, referent with respect to those who would be led and inspired.

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Phil said...

Mark, your video makes an excellent point, which I think is absolutely true. But, what happens when this constucted view by others doesn't mesh or integrate with who that leader truely is or that constructed view is incompatible with his/her capabilities? Who is left "holding the bag."

Mark said...

Phil, people don't just arbitrarily come up with the idea that so-and-so is the referent leader without that so-and-so having actually done things that make her/him worthy of that opinion. All the referent leader needs to do is to keep displaying the capabilities, attributes, and behaviours that they have been demonstrating all along. As far as "holding the bag," in a more-UCaPP organization, everyone does, together, because everyone takes up responsibility for the entire organization (the principle of, "when no one is in charge, everyone is in charge")

I think the greater, and far more common, outcome is the conventional, BAH construction of who becomes leader via power dynamics, favouritism, seniority, and the other skewed ways organizations have of putting people in charge. We've all lived through, and seen countless examples of, conventionally chosen so-called leaders not having the skills, capabilities, insight, wisdom, and other important attributes to actually inspire, garner respect, and lead. What happens in everyday life when the responsibilities and demands put upon our supposed leaders do not mesh or integrate with who that person truly is, and are not compatible with his/her capabilities? Those in subordinate positions, those in affected communities, those who are citizens, those whose livelihoods are placed in jeopardy all are left holding the proverbial bag, and not in a manner of joint responsibility (unless, of course, they happened to elect the jerk-du-jour).

Sort of like the situation in which the world finds itself about now.

You'll note, however, the stark differences between the current, and immediately past, Presidents of the United States. The current one is far more referent in nature, and he has, indeed, called upon people to take up collective responsibility for helping to fix the mess left by the more conventionally attributed ("I'm the decider") jerk-d'hier.