New Leadership

The latest edition of Harvard Business Review (May 2011) has an intersting article starting on page 59 titled “The Wise Leader” written by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi.

There is a great part of the article which talks about “new” leadership styles which have been developing in Japan (and elsewhere) in recent years and, if I may, I’ll quote from their concluding paragraphs:

Today’s knowledge-creating company, we believe, must metamorphose into the wisdom-practicing company of tomorrow.  That demands a new kind of leader – a CEO who is many things at the same time:

– a philosopher who grasps the essence of a problem and draws general conclusions from random observations;

– a master craftsman who understands the key issues of the moment and acts on them immediately;

– an idealist who will do what he or she believes is right and good for the company and society;

– a politician who can spur people to action;

– a novelist who uses metaphors, stories and rhetoric;

– a teacher with good values and strong principles, from whom others want to learn.

That’s too idealistic or too much to expect, you may say.  But companies have to create new futures in order to survive.  Those futures can no longer be extensions of the past; they must be leaps of faith into tomorrow.  CEOs cannot be content to analyze situations using empirical data and deductive reasoning; they must also make inductive jumps according to their ideals and dreams.  If they aren’t idealistic, they simply can’t create new futures.

Being idealistic isn’t enough, though.  Leaders must also be pragmatic – looking reality in the eye, grasping the essence of the situation, and envisioning how it relates to the larger context – if they are to judge what they must do right then and there to achieve the common good.

In some respects, it comes down to definitively bringing the wisdom of experience in to the decision- making process and not being narrowly focussed on the deductive processes that have been the “paragon” of recent thinking.  It also has its basis in values and morals.  Focus on “common goal” aspirations and decisions with respect to the businesss and the society in which it operates will ensure sustainability and reduce the chances of a parasitic existence for businesses in todays’ world.

I commend the article to you – it causes you to think about what and how businesses need to approach decision making from a strategic and operational perspective.

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