ATOMIC LEADERSHIP

One of the many joys of Wimbledon fortnight is the satisfying binary nature of triumphs and defeats. Win or lose. In or out. The rules are clear, the result is clear. It’s genuine satisfaction: everyday life, especially at work, is so frustratingly non-binary.

I wonder whether we admit that quite enough?

During team sessions this week, I’ve seen again a huge reluctance to view situations as…. ambiguous.  This is not an artsy or fluffy view of the world: the notion of ambiguity is – since the work of great scientific thinkers such as Max Planck, Einstein, Niels Bohr – scientific.

Quantum theory opened our minds to a powerful notion – that of wave/ particle duality – it is possible for matter/ energy to behave as a particle in one set of circumstances, and as a wave in a different context.  Neither one thing, nor the other…but possibly both.

In a fantastic linkage between Captain Kirk and real life, news of a successful ‘teleporting’ experiment broke this week.  The principle is called ‘quantum entanglement’ – two particles react as one, even when there is no connection between them.

Would there be different outcomes for ‘change programmes’ if we could experiment with this way of thinking, rather than the mechanistic (and control driven) binary either/ or model? Could some way of acknowledging the mysterious energetic connections between people and their environments lead to success?

We need a new sort of Business School.

It might offer the Planck – Bohr Leadership Programme.

GREECE IS THE WORD

I80pxtreemagine for a moment a member of the David Cameron’s cabinet earning the soubriquet #MinsterofAwesome.

It provoked howls of laughter in the café this morning.

Yet Yanis Varoufakis is a newly minted hero in the midst of a murky, dangerous, and possibly unsolvable situation who is so termed even as he resigns his position.

While a motorbike, or a clear and wittily expressed philosophy, may not be enough to make a hero – a binary situation almost certainly will.

Varoufakis

Is this helpful?

I raise it because of a parallel with a real life ‘leadership’ situation with which I am working this week.  The situation in Greece stays one step ahead of dramatists, economists, politicians, journalists and participants, defying adequate description or understanding. But what can be grasped is an endless stream of – binary – options and divisions.

Old against young, rich against poor in the referendum.
For and against debt relief, in or out of the Euro.

In the ‘leadership’ situation, an organisation with an unclear sense of itself wrestles with a difficult transformation programme.  (It is difficult, and that should be acknowledged)

And a key player is a hero figure, a hero of those who wish to transform.
(Perhaps he’ll become #directorofawesome)

At first I thought that this would make the path easier.  Yet it hasn’t.

It’s as if the added burden of star status has made the resistors even more resolute.  I think there’s a really interesting and important factor to remember here.  Stars, and heroes, are so seductive. But in these high octane ‘ either / or’ situations, they can only represent one part (half) of the story.

Gestalt thinking encourages us to become aware of the here and now, of contradictions and resistances, and to face them. Not fix them, just be aware of them.

I think one of the many reasons why the hero thing is not as innocent as it might seem is that it blocks off awareness of other important data. Having a hero feels rather good. Yet it means we stop looking and flowing and enquiring.

Perhaps #ministerofawesomeawareness would be a new sort of heroic quality that could help us all.