JP Morgan reported that the failing companies with whom he worked shared a characteristic: they all overpaid their top people. He came from the perspective of financial acumen. (The overpaying / star-struck
habit illustrates a poor grip on identifying value creation).

A more contemporary perspective might also point out that such a habit illustrates a laughably out of date sense of what ‘leadership’ might mean.

Enough work and research into groups, identity, and behaviour change has been undertaken over the last few decades to cast the idea that a good leader is a superior or special person with all the answers as worryingly old fashioned.

Max Weber wrote about ‘charismatic leadership’ over a century ago, and it’s that romantic notion that just doesn’t seem to want to lie down or go away.

We are relational beings. Companies and organisations are groups, and groups of groups. And groups operate in fascinating ways as they develop, define, protect, and activate their social identity.

A successful leader is less someone special and apart and more someone involved and connected, someone who can represent of codify or strengthen that group identity.

A moment’s thought will suggest the sorts of skills that might be needed here.

A sense of ‘we’ rather than ‘me’. Together rather than apart.
A keen ear to listen, to understand what concerns and defines the group.
An ability to shift and project a range of personality traits, to reinforce the group’s feeling of distinctiveness.
An ability to help members of the group see their own interests coincide with the group’s interests.

The changing political landscape is giving us all a master class in leaders who understand social identity – and those who don’t.

Yet businesses cling fondly to a hero myth, a leader with charisma set apart by a series of separating and status-building signals. Such as pay.

What comes around goes around.
When the bank JPM founded was hit by a loss scandal a few years ago, it was
blamed on the CEO having become too imperial.

Too much charisma.


O80pxtreene hundred years ago, Einstein published his General Theory of Relativity.

Celebrations, conferences, and exhibitions have scattered themselves through that part of the space-time continuum that we call 2015.

Our friends Professor Brian Cox and Robin Ince (An Infinite Monkey’s Cage BC R4) have set themselves the task of celebrating and explaining the Theory in two wee 30 minute programmes.

Joyously, even that science titan Mr Cox recounts that it takes about ’15 exposures’ to explanations to feel that you ‘get it’.

Amongst the little images used to bring things to life was this.

When you sit on a chair, do you feel the pulling force of gravity?

Well actually, no. It’s the chair pushing that you can feel, if you let yourself respond to sensation.

Einstein’s thinking tells us that an apple is not pulled to the ground by a gravitational force (a reluctant but firm adieu to Newton). Rather the ground, making its way through that curves of space and time, is accelerating towards the apple.

This describes beautifully, in my experience, workplace relationships.

The known direction of flow for frustration or negativity is almost never as has been assumed.

Sit down two ‘conflicted’ team members, start the professional process going, and voilà. The perceived direction of animosity and resentment will soon emerge as operating the other way. (As, of course, will support and regard)

A force pulling you down? No, simply the complex dance of different energies and objects making their way through 4-dimensional, dynamic, space & time.

With huge apologies to the Relativity Experts, if we could conclude that one strand of what Einstein showed us was that where we think there’s a force on us, a pull, there’s a complex and interesting bending and warping of everyone’s energy, then his genius expands into other fields: a really helpful relationship specialist.

image00The oldest existing manuscript written by Albert Einstein on his theory of relativity and the revolutionary equation E=mc2