Why is it that leaders – in social, political, and (most importantly) organisational contexts – are seemingly unable to address meaningfully the wicked problems and complex challenges that we currently face? There’s enormous busyness around reconfiguring departments and adopting ‘transformational’ operating models, but in general plus ca change, plus la meme chose.
Eyewatering amounts of treasure and time are spent in corporate life on leadership development, with people working hard to try and demonstrate that something useful has happened as a result. An entire pseudo-science has emerged to try and prove its worth, in part to justify the economic dividend that goes to those who make it to the upper levels of positional power. The fetishisation of leadership, especially strong leadership, fills our news outlets holding up carefully distorted images of great men (leadership is still deeply gendered) from across the worlds of politics, business, and sports. This book explores the persistently disappeared and unacknowledged constraints that inhibit leaders in every context. It argues that these constraints – defined in this volume in terms of five organisational paradoxes and six management myths – are found at large in society and are especially impactful in organisational life.
By calling attention to, and exploring in rigorous detail, these paradoxes and myths, this book helps leaders, and the leadership systems they are part of, to wriggle free of the tacit assumptions that lock them into a cul-de-sac of simplistic prescription and heroic individualism. Once these mind-forged manacles are removed, new forms of leadership practice become possible, ones that are fit for purpose in engaging with a world facing systemic crisis and existential risk.
This book is essential reading for leaders and managers at all levels looking for solutions to traditionally simplistic leadership practice and who want to affect systemic change. It will be beneficial to all those in the world of leadership development including business schools and HR departments.
Table of Contents
1. An Introduction… In Seven Uneasy Pieces
2. The se and Abuse of Paradoxes in Organisational Life
3. The Six Myths of Management (Thinking)
Mark Cole is an OD practitioner with over 30 years’ experience working on development in organisations in and around the NHS. Latterly, he has been critically thinking about work and the workplace and his book called Radical Organisation Development was published by Routledge in 2020.
John Higgins is an independent researcher, tutor, and coach specialising in how people use and abuse power throughout the workplace and society. He is widely published and has written extensively alongside the faculty and students of the Ashridge Doctorate and Masters in Organizational Change.