Leadership Re-defined

by Elaine on August 22, 2012

To the upcoming generation, leadership is the quality of how you lead yourself within an ocean of options and choices to be made and it is how you help others to lead themselves effectively. Ralph, 25, working within a PhD programme at a Dutch University comments:

Leadership is situational. It is determined by context so there is no specific norm. It is about making decisions that help a group to move to the next phase, to move on. …The nature of my work is individualistic. So, I pay a lot of attention to the need of everyone in the group having their say. I’m very aware of the risk of one or a few people dominating conversations, which can be ineffective. Leading is making more of all talents, interests and views without judgement.

According to our interviewees, leadership is redefined in a context where social order and role are not so predetermined. It is within such a less-fixed environment that leadership is taken to mean the ability to facilitate a productive kind of trust, as well as having the wherewithal to endorse inclusion and collaboration. We return to Anna, 24, who is working in law:

Leadership is about how you steer a group of people. How you do that differentiates a good leader from a not so good one. Hierarchical structures aren’t sustainable as they merely represent formal authority. Leadership is natural authority, not forced but willingly adhered to because it creates more and more freedom and transparency, a sort of modern Leviathan leadership where it’s accepted that everyone is sovereign……., which is the case anyway.

The key to successful next generation leadership, our interviewees report, is confidently knowing who you are and knowing how you relate to people in any given situation. Such confidence does not denote traditional notions of being self-assured or self-confident, but rather confidence in the system and the process. They can lead with confidence that instantaneous and sufficient information will be provided through a web of channels, and at the right time. Leadership in this context is seen as the ability to listen and tune in to what is playing at any given moment in time.


Unexamined Assumptions Around Leadership

by Elaine on August 22, 2012

Recently, a number of us from European consultancies and universities met to discuss and question the state of leadership amid the global financial crisis. Had the drive for material advantage yielded leadership that was neither uniting nor fulfilling? Would renouncing hierarchical leadership in favour of flat teams beckon in a more sustainable and systemic business practice? It was a lively and creative debate but there was a serious omission in our discussion and, once it surfaced, our omission revealed much about the trajectory of our thinking. We had been dealing primarily with our own most immediate issues. Those that we encounter daily in organisational life. We were analyzing the developmental needs of the leaders in situ to the exclusion of the emerging talent pool. As such, we had been neglecting how the leadership apprentices in their twenties as the next generation of leaders might be mobilized to carry the burdens and take up the opportunities of leading on into the next decade.

The surprising aspect of this omission is that both authors are mothers of, taken together, nine young adults and as such our emotional lives are encased in their struggles, joys and dilemmas. We hear on a daily basis their conversations, dreams, relationship dramas, fears and shackles. So, it was striking to us that, despite living day-to-day with young minds, our attention had been almost exclusively orientated to the existing confederacy of leaders. This said much to us about our own and the group’s structures of reasoning, not to mention the communities of practice of which we are part. With some amazement, we realized that our filters had predisposed us to focus on what we already knew to be “true”- that the solution lies with the current leaders.


Leadership in the Next Generation

July 22, 2012

How can we understand what it means for young leaders to lead? Our interviewees, in a recent research project into the aspirations of young leaders in their 20’s, indicated to us a common view on ‘leadership’. One important factor contributing to their leadership perception is that leadership is contextual. The larger environment has changed and […]

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July 1, 2012

In coaching and consulting we need to stay alive to the structure of our own issues and be alert to the trajectory of our thinking. This was brought to life during recent discussion at the de Baak Think Tank on the challenges facing European Leadership. It is not only individuals that get stuck in habits […]

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The Next Generation of Leaders

April 22, 2012

Has the drive for material advantage yielded leadership that is uniting and fulfilling? Will the renouncing of hierarchical leadership in favour of flat teams beckon in a more sustainable and systemic business practice? Such questions exercise the minds of consultants and Leaders in situ but are they relevant to the next generation of leaders? A […]

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