Leadership Matters? Finding Voice, Connection and Meaning in the 21st Century

Nov 27, 2019

Just about a year ago, at the request of Chris Mabey I spent some days reviewing chapter drafts from various members of the core team of the ethical leadership.org university seminar series.  I am happy to have just received a copy of the book, with the above title.  In the end, I contributed a small 1500 word “vignette” to the book myself.

The book, aimed at both organizational leaders and business school students is sorely needed, and over the course of this year, I am planning to review successive chapters.

In his introduction, Chris notes the possibility of a collusive cycle in which “performance-driven parents, schools, employers and the media encourage students to concentrate almost exclusively on the instrumental goals of academic grades, a phenomenon that becomes self-fulfilling as academics seek to please in order to secure good student evaluations.  This is reinforced further when students encounter career-minded academics that are driven, albeit reluctantly, by elitist accreditation and ranking; the result is overprescribed, risk-free research and uncontentious teaching, that is unlikely to generate the innovative thinking essential to a modern economy”.

Yet he also quotes from research carried out by the Future of Work unit in ESADE, Spain, suggesting that the leaders of the future will be asking questions such as:

  • How am I building values, ethics and relational/emotional intelligence skills into my human resources and organizational culture, given the prevalence of portfolio employment?
  • How can our employees learn and operate with and from values of compassion, trust and care – bridging technology-based relationships with human-based interactions
  • Do jobs create meaning and allow workers and employees to realise their full potential in creating something they care about?

leading to the three questions implicitly posed in the book title.

How do we resist the ready-made and often vacuous “solutions” and technologies of power and leadership with which we are confronted on a daily basis?  How do we find our moral bearings, our unique voices?

With the increasing blurring of boundaries between work and non-work, how do we avoid sacrificing attention to the latter on the altar of the former, and staying fully connected to all that our bodies represent as whole human beings?

How do I deal with the persistence of ego , reduce the credibility gap between what I say and do, determine what is really important, retain integrity, have fun… and how can we empower ourselves to do what is important, not just what is urgent, playing our part in changing the world and leaving a meaningful legacy?

Over the coming weeks I hope to reflect on some of the ways in which the various authors engage with these questions.