At least, 2002 till 2008 were good years for me on a personal, professional and business level.
“The most threatening circumstances can be experienced as the most highly motivating if—and this is a very big “if”—the purposes which we serve feel “significant” enough to the organization’s members.”
Looking over research on “leadership during crisis”, I was reading the report “Raising The Stakes or Finally Seeing Them Clearly?: Balanced Leadership in Times of Economic Crisis, by Jusela, Wiggenhorn, & Gentile. (The report can be downloaded at the Aspen Institute website.) It is a call for us to rethink what leadership can be and business can do.
This report answers the big picture questions behind the arguments that MBAs had a big role in creating the financial mess and that business schools were also at fault for creating narrowly focused leaders. Our current economic crisis has made more of us aware of 6 Paradoxes of Leadership, argue Jusela, Wiggenhorn, & Gentile. If we confront these leadership paradoxes head on, whatever actions leaders choose will be more effective.
In their introduction to the paradoxes, Jusela, Wiggenhorn, & Gentile capture all the dimensions of our current situation nationally and globally: – the steep and punishing plunge of the market,- the permanent disappearance of wealth, – the crushing of our confidence in out economic system, – a sense of trauma that is breeding helplessness, – relentless bad news, – pessimism, and – the debilitating skepticism towards proposed solutions. You’ve been living this too, so you can recognize how apt their description is of our current economic situation and the crisis of leadership we’re experiencing right now.
Except that the report was written in 2002. Seven years ago.
When I actually realized that this report was about some other economic crisis, I shivered in the chill of ‘deja vu all over again.’ Not only was the description of the economic situation familiar, but also the leadership vacuum was the same then as it seems to be now. Not much at all has changed, not even the questions. As the prescient authors clarified:
With all of this “sturm and drang,” over economic downturn, the role and even the significance of the business leader seems less than clear. What can individual leaders, or even teams of managers who understand the concept of collective leadership do, in the face of such a debacle?
If we choose to see them, the true stakes of corporate leadership are being revealed and the true responsibilities and functions of corporate leaders are being defined, (emphasis mine) even as the impacts on all stakeholders are heightened by economic upheaval. Through a series of apparent “leadership paradoxes,” the clarity of vision made possible in such times can be examined.
With insight and wisdom seldom seen even in leadership tomes, Jusela, Wiggenhorn, & Gentile identify these paradoxes of leadership during crisis, and then discuss leaders’ possible responses to these paradoxes. Their full discussion is worth the time it might take you to read the whole 10-page report, and the report can be printed out to share with colleagues.
To give you a quick overview of these paradoxes and perhaps pique your curiosity, I’ve [click to continue…