Monday 23 December 2013

Stuck for a Present? - A Thought for Christmas

In the run-up to Christmas, a friend introduced me to Kiva.

Kiva is an organisation that enables people to make loans to those in the developing world who need capital to start or develop some means of becoming self-sufficient.  So you can go to their site, look at projects, and decide whether you want to support the expansion of a farm, or the purchase of a goat…

Over time, the loan is repaid, at which point you can reclaim your money, reinvest it in another project, or make it a donation.

You can start with a very small amount, to get the feel of it ($30, I think). Then, of course, you can expand your portfolio...

So this year, following a friend's example, we are giving each of the children a Kiva voucher. They can then choose which projects they wish to support, and watch their progress over time.

I envisage we will repeat this every Christmas, so over the years they will end up with a portfolio of several projects they have supported - and also with an appreciation of how much good relatively small amounts of spare cash can do to people much less fortunate than themselves: so it is a present which educates as well.

So if you are stuck for a present, I commend Kiva to you (and even if you are not…)

Friday 13 December 2013

A note of thanks

In the New Year, I will be running a large Open Space event for a client, who has never experienced one before.
Until a year or so ago, I had not run one.  But I have done several in the interim, thanks to a client who had experienced one and took the risk of commissioning me to run one with him - and then several more, as it was so successful.

Reflecting on that, I realised that it is something of a pattern. Over the 25 years I have worked as a freelance consultant, I have changed and developed what I do significantly - and frequently I have been supported by a client who understands that I want to try something new, and is prepared to take the risk of allowing me to do it with his or her people.

That is true of coaching, of many of the consultancy projects I have done, and of new workshops or approaches to team development that I have undertaken.

So I am extremely grateful to all my clients, past and present, who have been willing to take that risk, and trust me to try something out for the first time.

And the approach of Christmas feels like the right time to put my gratitude on the record, and to say thank you.

Saturday 7 December 2013

Anti Hero as Leader

I was sent a link to this report about Anti-Heroes by Professor Gerry Docherty, formerly of Newcastle University (UK) and now of Griffith University in Australia.

Gerry in many ways exemplifies the style of leadership articulated in this report, which, I think, is why many of us value, respect and admire him.  I hope that his style and qualities are likewise recognised at his new University and that he flourishes there.

The thesis of the report - which is well worth reading in full - is that the new realities of the world require, in many roles, a new style of leadership, quite different from the types of leadership which have been effective in the past, and indeed remain effective, in some circumstances, in the present.

The traditional style of leadership is characterised as:
  • Clear thinking
  • Self-Confident
  • Expert
  • Charismatic
These are undoubted strengths in some situations, but such leaders are also prone to the following flaws:
  • Un-empathetic
  • Over-confident and opinionated
  • Inflexible 
  • In denial of uncertainty.
The Anti Hero, by contrast, is characterised by the following traits, which are typically less valued by organisations :
  • Empathy
  • Humility
  • Flexibility
  • Acknowledgement of uncertainty
  • Self-awareness.
These characteristics suggest that the Anti Hero is better at:
  • Adapting to new circumstances
  • Drawing upon all the relevant information
  • Building diverse relationships
  • Understanding other people
Anti Heroes also have their typical flaws, which include:
  • Complicated communications
  • Slower decision making
The report explores when each of these approaches might be of most use, and also has several case studies to put the flesh on the bones of this analysis.

It is more polemic and exploratory than academic in tone, so I would see it as a provocation to thought and reflection rather than an authoritative piece of research. But it resonates with both my prejudices and my experience, so I commend it to you on that basis.

Reflecting on all this in the light of the recent death of Nelson Mandela prompts some further thoughts.

Perhaps he was truly great because he combined characteristics of both types, without any seeming conflict or contradiction within himself.

For who could deny that he was clear-thinking, self-confident and charismatic? Yet he also demonstrated empathy, humility, flexibility and self-awareness to an extraordinary degree as well.  So perhaps the two types are not necessarily mutually exclusive. But I suspect such fusion is rare: which is why a leader of the stature of Mandela is also rare.