Monday, 15 August 2016

Give Collaborative Leadership a Try

The iconic sheriff of classic Westerns walks towards the town’s folks with his spurs jangling. He tells them what has to be done, and he makes damn sure it’s done.

The lone heroic leader commands dramatic attention, but history has long observed that the most effective leaders know two things – one, they can achieve the most when others are willing to help them to the best of their ability; and two, how willing others are to help them depends on the sense of togetherness they can engender.

Leaders who leave others feeling excluded will at best be tolerated like a minor princeling, or at worst, disposed of like Caesar. In the cabinet of government or the boardroom of corporations, the daggers may be metaphorical but they can just as swiftly put an end to any flawed ambition.

To steer clear of passive-aggressive mutiny in the office, and generate the kind of synergy where the sum is substantially greater than its parts, one should turn to the art of collaborative leadership. In essence, it calls for four simple things:
• Articulate shared objectives
• Promote open communications
• Engender a culture of mutual support
• Oversee joint reviews and adaptation

With collaborative leadership one can build a team that will enable its members to play to their individual strengths while covering each other’s weaknesses, and thus maximise their collective capacity to achieve what they all want to attain.

Contrary to any suggestion that this is only suitable for relaxed leaders working with a group of cooperative-minded people, it is in fact most called for in situations where collaboration seems to be completely out of sight.

Without the collaborative leadership of Dwight Eisenhower who firmly and respectfully made uncollaborative characters such as Field Marshal Montgomery and General Patton work together on a unified plan, D-Day might not have led to Allied Victory over Nazi Germany. If not for Mary Seacole’s charm and determination to get a disparate band of individuals to contribute to the realisation of her unconventional vision, there would never have been a care and catering service in the darkest hours of the Crimea War for the wounded and battle-weary alike.

And when José María Arizmendiarrieta trained and guided the first generation of managers to build in the 1950s what became the Mondragon Corporation, Spain was still under Franco’s authoritarian rule. It was Arizmendiarrieta’s unwavering commitment and promotion of the ethos of solidarity that paved the way for a federation of cooperative enterprises that by the 2010s are generating €11bn in revenue worldwide with over 74,000 workers (whose pay differentials average no more than 1:5).

We won’t go into the advice and training needed to develop such leadership, but we can use a model called the Synetopia Protocol to check the extent to which any aspiring collaborative leader has managed to put in place what is needed to nurture cooperation and multiply synergy. The nine elements to consider are:

S hared Mission
Y ou-and-I Mutuality
N imble Membership
E ducative Collaboration
T esting of Claims and Assumptions
O pen Access to Information
P articipatory Decision-Making
I mpartial Distribution of Power
A ccountability for Action
More details on these 9 elements are set out in: ‘The Synetopia Protocol’.

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Politics of Deranged Generalisation

In an episode of the cop drama, ‘Criminal Minds’, a man lost his wife in a fatal accident which he blamed on someone driving a red sports car. A mixture of grief, anger and instability turned him into a psychopath who embarked on killing a succession of people because each of them drove a red sports car. None of the murder victims had anything to do with the original accident. They were just tragically unlucky to be targeted by a deranged mind who picked them out in connection with an incidental characteristic he had come to attach visceral blame to.

Any viewer can see that the killer was utterly irrational, and whatever sympathy one might feel about the loss of his wife, there could be no tolerance for the deadly danger he posed to other people. But in our society today when, instead of one individual behaving in this deranged manner, we have a large number of people blaming, hating and willing to hurt countless others based on some wholly irrelevant characteristics, we are told they should be respected (unless they claim allegiance to Islam, in which case they will be condemned).

Indeed, a whole industry has sprung up to protect people from “politically correct” criticisms, defend them as upholders of “traditional values”, and encourage them to act without reservation on their prejudices. These people may, as a result of some incident in their past or an unfortunate upbringing, have acquired a deep resentment against an individual or a group of them (e.g., the person(s) may be of a different gender, a particular ethnic group, a certain sexual orientation; have a disability, a low income that has to be supplemented by social security, a need to seek refuge abroad; hold another religious or secular outlook; or speak up for disadvantaged groups). And not only are those harbouring such bitter resentment oblivious as to whether their attitude is remotely justified, they mindlessly project that negative feeling to all individuals who happen to have the characteristics they have come to demonise.

When they speak or write viciously against their imagined enemies, spread lies about those people’s beliefs and behaviour, instil in their own children suspicion and hatred for the ‘inferior’ or ‘deviant’, political or religious leaders who spot them as useful fodder come forward to declare them, not as certifiable, but as deserving of respect for their tradition/custom/religion or whatever handy label that is around.

So just when therapy is most urgently needed to save these infected minds from falling over the edge into permanently deranged generalisations and all-consuming hatred, our modern day Dr. Frankensteins harvest them to feed their extremist movements. The monsters thus created stare with enmity at any kind of support given to their ‘foes’, acting alone or as a group they fuel antagonism against innocent and vulnerable people, and they channel their energy into intimidating, even harming, those who have not done a thing to deserve their disdain.

We should all take a closer look at how common it is now for euphemistically termed ‘politically incorrect’ (i.e., morally repulsive) dispositions to be exploited by unscrupulous leaders to build armies of supporters in the service of hate. That is why extremism is on the rise.