Hilarie Owen, Ed. New Thinking on Leadership: A Global Perspective. Philadelphia: KoganPage, 2012.
In this small volume there are contributions from leadership scholars in many parts of the world. There is, indeed, a global perspective to be gained from these chapters, ranging from leadership in schools in China to collaborative approaches to leadership in Latin America.
Bridging between chapters on theory and application is a short piece by Warren Bennis in which he reflects on leadership as a part of his own life. He discusses the central of learning with others in his life. He talks about the leadership course he has taught repeatedly with the president of the University of Southern California, Steven Sample. Teaching has been valuable for his own learning. He talks about his mentored relationship with Doug McGregor and colleagueship with John Gardner (not the novelist). He talks about the post-Vice Presidentcy Al Gore, the Nobel Peace Prize winning Al Gore as an authentic leader. Reflections like those found in this chapter are worth the price of the book.
But there is more of value to be found. In Brit Hilarie Owen’s introduction we find reflections on how, instead of effective leadership, politics has been filled more with corruption and misbehaviors. Our institutions for developing leaders have failed. Yet, “Reverence and respect of others is fundamental to the practice of leadership and should be part of leadership learning and development.” Otherwise, we end up with the hubris effect that misleads individuals who are in leader roles. She references a study of why leadership initiatives fail:
- Reluctance by top management to participate.
- A lack of appropriate role models among top executives.
- No executive support for proposals by those who attended such programs.
Today, states Owen.
The cry now is for leadership not leaders. What does this mean? In my research… it became clear that from the age of six or seven boys and girls differentiated between leader and leadership. A leader was older, bigger, bossy and cleverer. Leadership was ab out being honest, including people, being fair and courageous.
Interesting perspective on what some may call good leading and bad leading.
As is my usual approach to edited volumes I will highlight but one or two chapters of direct interest to me. For example, Elena Antonacopoulou who is at the University of Liverpool in the UK argues for a distinction that is moving closer to the role and value of words in our sense and meaning making in relation to leading, leader and leadership. She argues that the “fuzziness around the meanings of leadership makes it all the more urgent to take active steps to rescue the idea so that a clear set of meanings can be distilled to inspire and inform future research and business practice.” Her approach is to focus on leader, on the one hand, and ship on the other. In focusing open leader her attention is elements of the upper quadrants of the AQAL map, in this case, intentions and practices. the “ship” relates to personal impact. In other words, the relationship between the individual in a leader role and the human, cultural and systemic, context in which leading takes place. Her work also emphasizes the importance of practice, what I would call integrated developmental activities, in preparing individuals to perform in leader roles effectively.
Fionna Kennedy of the New Zealand Leadership Institute presents on another theme I have valued: leadership development is fundamentally individual development. This perspective is very much in harmony with the approach in Antonacopoulou’s chapter. It relates, as well to leading as being a relational phenomenon.
In her closing chapter Owen refers back to the work of Mary Parker Follett as represented in the Leadership Quote to be found in the March 2013 issue of ILR Particles found on this website. She draws on many sources, including Dawkins’ work on memes that compete for “space in our brains.” Yet, there is great resistance to the introduction of concepts such as these into the mainstream of our organizations and institutions. Like Follett, Owen believes that leadership can come from anywhere in organizations. These ideas were seditious when Follett wrote them moire than sixty years ago. They are still. And, if observers and learners like Mitroff and Bennis is right, such resistance shall lead to the end of organizations as we have known them.