HUMAN INTERACTION IS TOO
COMPLEX, MESSY AND CONTEXTUAL,
FOR ANY TYPE OF FORMULA TO BE UNIVERSALLY APPLICABLE.
(Mills & Denison, 2016)
Developing effective leaders.... today
Have you ever separated an egg from its omelette, the tree from its forest or the coffee granule from its latte? You wouldn't, so why would you separate your understanding of an individual from the broader society that individual is a part of, such as doing a psychometric test!
The most advanced way of doing psychology is to join with sociology and understand the effects of the subtle, informal "social" realities, pressures and processes that we cannot escape yet never see. Yet because this way is so progressive, very few, if any, psychologists practice it.
The cause-effect, precise measurements that identify a "best" series of behaviours working time after time—a "do-this-and-do-that" or "do-what-this-leader-did"—that turns into general models, formulas or systems offers useful insights (even if it is ironic that leaders are taught by following).
Yet all the nuances, ambiguities and messiness of human behaviour can't be squeezed into a model, formula or system—like fitting square pegs into round holes—there simply aren't enough "this-is-the-right-way-of-talking-in-this-situation" buttons to press.
The more precise the measurement, the more everyday-reality is left out, it has to be for that science to be effective. Simply put, humans aren't inanimate objects, machines or robots and "real" life doesn't occur in vacuums, labs or systems.
We can never know "every" part of everyday-life but we can know more. When leaders are taught to "see" broader, deeper and subtle social processes, they can develop a more flexible and fluid framework. Moving from "do this" and "do that", to a "be aware of this, so you can do that, or this, or that...".
How can leaders develop staff to be able to step up, take initiative and be spontaneous/creative, when they operate under such smoothly-run, efficient systems, procedures and regulations that always tell their staff what to do?
The label post-structural means "after.. grand beliefs" in society, or more simply, "what you thought was true, might not be!" Humans are always surrounded by others and so what they know and do is produced by the constant shaping of different perspectives.
While leadership models are not wrong per se: when leaders are making decisions there is a "lot-more-going-on" that most leaders are simply unaware of.
Rather than thinking creatively, most leaders are managing, coping or compromising—qualities that don't necessarily define effective, intentional or pro-active and in-control leading. Which may explain research showing 70% Change Management initiatives fail?
Understanding the nuances and subtleties of "constantly shaping differing perspectives"—knowing the boundaries of the box in order to know how to think outside it—is essential to doing well. Otherwise no-one is being "lead" anywhere significant!
Leaders may know they need to "know-people" or "contextualise their thinking" to do well, but very few know they need to know progressive "social" or "post-structural" theories to contextualise their contextual thinking and truly know people!
BUILDING FLEXIBILITY, FLUIDITY AND REALITY INTO DEVELOPMENT AND PERFORMANCE
IN THEORETICALLY-DRIVEN, INTENTIONAL AND PRO-ACTIVE WAYS
Contextualising contextual thinking
Given the progressive yet challenging nature of post-structural theories, there are very few (if any) post-structural theories in leadership books, courses or coaching, which makes this a very exciting moment for today's leaders.
Most leaders ‘bend’ knowledge to make their practices fit their unique contexts, yet our training and development goes further as it is theoretically-informed, subtle and intentional, enabling leaders to "take charge" rather than "react to".
For us, truly effective leaders need to see the effects of the "constant shaping of differing perspectives". They need to "think-broader" to "see-more" and then "adapt-and-do-better" in the particular setting or moment they are in. Not a new knowledge: but a new framework for "using" knowledge.
Therefore, we believe that today’s effective leaders will be better served seeing more, embracing complexity and multiple truths as strong assumptions driving their practices, so that they can then develop the ability...
- to identify unforeseen problems
- to explain what and why they are problems
- to flexibly adapt before problems become bigger
- to operate with constant and continual fluidity
- to operate in a broader framework of practice
- to provide a coherent rationale for change
- to re-think and do what is normal
- ... and so to be considerably more effective
How can best plans, designs and models ever be as effective as they need
if real-life throws its infinite curve balls? Don't leaders need more "flexible thinking"?
If leaders' followers are also taught to be leaders, how do the original leaders overcome their new "leader-followers' from 'pulling them in different directions?