Leadership & Decision Making

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If you want a certain culture, then act that way.

Here's a nice little nugget of wisdom from one of our favourite organisational thought leaders at the moment, Henry Cloud. The message is simple. If you want a certain culture, then do more of that deed. A culture is powerful. It has the ability to help us thrive or suck the life out of us. And at the same time, whatever culture we are in, we influence it as well. Everyone is a force who exerts a bit of themselves [...]

On leadership

One of the projects we're currently working on aims to measure the impact of school leadership development programmes.  The concept of principalship is quite interesting.  Many people think that schools have much to learn from business, especially in the realm of leadership.  I have some reservations about comparing school principals to CEO's, as I think there's a major difference in motivation between these two types of leaders.  I can see however, that the management skills required are similar. At the [...]

The Abilene Paradox

There is an interesting phenomenon in social psychology called pluralistic ignorance or the "Abilene Paradox".  In short it is the reluctance people have to voice a minority opinion in a group, especially if they feel that they're the only ones holding that opinion. When a group seems to be set on a certain idea or action, people will often not voice their disagreement with it if they feel they are the only ones against the group's position.  Often this is [...]

Have your answers questioned

This blog entry onOpen Forum got me thinking.  Specifically this paragraph: "Find some truth tellers. The first thing every CEO must realize is that everyone is lying to him (her too). It just happens. They didn’t coin the phrase “shoot the messenger” for no reason. There are many wonderful organizations out there for CEOs that provide truth-telling services. Vistage is an international group whose tag line is something like “Have your answers questioned.” It’s pretty clear that their ideal customer is the CEO who [...]

Pendulums and Knee-jerk reactions

When a system is over-constrained (i.e. there are too many rules or too much bureaucracy) it often folds back into chaos i.e. order collapses.  For example, too much bureaucracy forces employees to find all kinds of work-arounds to get their work done, leading to a collapse of discipline.  Once a system is in chaos, order is often imposed by a despotic leader.  All goes well for a while, but slowly the bureaucracy creeps in again, and in an attempt to [...]


We often need to explain to people what a heuristic is.  Usually we tell them that it's similar to a "rule of thumb" and then try to give examples. I came across this great example on Bob Sutton's blog ... "Today, after lunch, an executive told me a story about how a secretary where he worked walked-up to the boss and asked "when are the layoffs?"  The boss looked shocked and wondered what in the world prompted the question.  She answered  that [...]

Values vs Slogans

We attended an interesting public workshop on Mine Health and Safety today.  One of the speakers said the following:  Zero harm should be a value, not a slogan. This made me wonder,  how many supposed "values" are nothing more than slogans? ... We often find that people (especially leaders) pay lip service to the latest hot topic by coming up with a catchy phrase, but there's no real substance or commitment behind it. A case in point is the seemingly [...]

Dealing with starfish: lessons from the Apaches

Following on from my previous post where we used the metaphor of Starfish and Spiders to look at distributed vs centralised organisations or complex vs ordered problems, let's explore how one would go about dealing with Starfish problems. Using old-fashioned frontal or direct assault techniques when attacking a Starfish problem or organisation actually strengthens it, making it more open and more decentralised.  Death-blows are temporary, and in the end makes matters worse as it doubles the threat.  There are several reasons for [...]

Of spiders and starfish

I recently heard someone use this metaphor for the first time, and found it really interesting. In essense, spiders and starfish may look alike, both being multi-legged creatures, but upon investigation prove to be very different.  Cut a leg off a spider, and you get a slightly disabled seven-legged (less effective) creature; cut off its head and you have a dead spider. In contrast, if you cut off the arm of a starfish, it will grow a new one. Even [...]

Humility & ignorance in the Leaders journey

Sonja handed me a book the other day with these words, "This is the best fantasy novel ever written!" Being a avid reader and an ever-increasing fan of the genre I obliged and took the book. Raymond E. Feist's Magician is the afore-mentioned n­ovel. Barely a few chapters into the book I am struck by a thread in the Hero's Journey narrative plot that is still fresh in my mind after reading Philip Pullman's­ Northern Lights recently. In both stories the central character [...]