05 May 2010

Contemporary Leadership and Trust

Today, I was in beautiful, downtown, (blustery and cold) Regina. I was invited to present this morning’s keynote at the Project Management International Professional Development Conference. The theme of this year’s conference is (was) The Power of Trust. I decided to share some ideas on Contemporary Leadership (which, of course, is constructed as UCaPP leadership in a valence-constructed organization) and Trust.

Regular readers will already know how I build the case for BAH and UCaPP organizations in valence terms. Those who may have glanced at my thesis wiki may have come across some of the differences between BAH and UCaPP organizations, especially with respect to some of the categories of distinction between them, and how these impinge on our conventional (i.e., post-Gutenberg, modern/BAH) and unconventional (i.e., contemporary/UCaPP) understanding of leadership. Essentially, traditional leaders lead in a very commonsensical understanding of what it means to lead: they construct the vision, translate that into a mission, determine the overall objectives and goals for the organization, divide up the tasks, create mechanisms to control people’s activities through various extrinsic motivators and checking-up procedures and protocols, and – most of all – ensure stability and predictability through establishing good structures and good management. On the other hand, in UCaPP organizations, most of these sorts of processes are dispersed among the members who act with a high degree of individual autonomy and agency in an environment of collective responsibility and mutual accountability. Thus, UCaPP leaders’ roles differ significantly from those of BAH leaders: the latter is predominantly instrumental, while the former is environmental.

I’ve previously written on trust in organizations. In that post from a year ago, I described that trust is like a three-rung ladder: first you have familiarity, simple knowledge that is sufficient when the stakes are low; next comes confidence, based on a combination of familiarity and an emotional perception that makes an unknowable future momentarily certain; and finally, trust in which no certainty is possible when faced with a relatively high risk and cognitive judgement must be suspended in order to move to action.

BAH organizations and their leaders have confidence down pat. Through their extrinsic motivators, control procedures, and yearning for stability and predictability, BAH organizations are great at confidence. They cannot, however, get to trust. For trust to emerge in an organization, its leaders must be able to responsibly cede control, and for that, one requires a UCaPP organization. It is the cohesion that characterizes organization-ba which provides the requisite common understanding, sensibility, values, and volition to action. Organization-ba suggests that when no one in charge, everyone is in charge, with individual autonomy and agency, collective responsibility, and mutual accountability. These conditions that characterize UCaPP organizations, facilitated by UCaPP leadership, in turn enable the Power of Trust.

Thanks to Patrick Au and the other members of the PMI organizing committee for inviting me. If you attended - and even if you didn't - and would like to engage further on some of these ideas of organizational transformation, contemporary leadership, and trust, I'm easy to reach!

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