Leadership: what is out, what is in.
March 28, 2016
Silver-haired, white males, well aged, “safe hands”, “at the end of the day” and “bottom line” blokes, steady, practical, rational and slightly constipated, with an average culture and proudly lacking intellectual distinction, their minds engraved with experience and clogged up with platitudes, solid in their knowledge of one thing and absolute about its relevance: they are out.
As to what therefore should make its way in, I suggest: young, coloured and colourful, female or some variation of it, synaptic and interdisciplinary, passionate, critical, empathic, collaborative, ironic, reflective, diverse and humane, comfortable with emergence, complexity, capable of engaging social systems and of seeding, articulating, precipitating arguments for commitments, radical about being a trans- (transitory, transformative, transparent, transdisciplinary) driven by curiosity. People that cherish serendipity, its accidental encounters and its oblique outcomes, who are rich in possibilities and bored stiff by probability, cool, timely, coherent and generally concerned with the quality and meaning of things. Someone for whom innovation is not a funnelled objective, a solution or a material outcome, but a style, a certain consistency of being, a blended effort of enquiry, creation and relevance.
I express this view (it is a view, of a writing I see emerging from the wall) as I observe a beautiful autumn day consume itself, and beyond it I see the abrasive misery of self possessed stupidity consume those around it, as decisions are made in corporates and political institutions that bear the mark of a stale, stuffed, blunt, worn out man-made culture, with the effect of deadening meaning all around them. I can’t wait. I really want to hear the singing and the laughter burst out or rush in, finally free to take-over.
Disclaimer: a few days ago my child pointed me out to a friend of his, and said, “that silver-haired man is my father”, to which his friend said “I thought he was your grandfather”. I am OK with that. ;-) So my next reflection should be, where to if your hair is silvery? The first station of that exploration will likely discover that “experience” does not have its value in the outcomes of it, the practical knowledge, the “wisdom” manifest in the silveriness, but in the practice of learning that leads to both having an experience and deriving meaning from it. The implication appears to be that if you do have silver hair then your most effective contribution to any social process of decision making is not in determining what “experiences” should be had, but how to have them, so that there are many and they are rich in possibilities and effects. And then humanely, sympathetically remind everyone around you that learning is, thus, an endless pursuit, a sysiphean challenge that leadership embodies.