The Leadership Maelstrom

I wrote yesterday about ‘The Nature of Leadership’, which reminded me of several conversations i have had recently within my research community around subjectivity: the way that when we look at something we know and understand well, but do so through a different lens, we realise that we do not know it at all.

I use the term ‘nested subjectivity’ to describe this experience: when we take a subjective term (like ‘Leadership’, ‘Community’, or ‘Trust’), and describe it using other subjective terms. The whole thing cascades out into personal interpretations and often experience based biases.

The Leadership Maelstrom is a reference to a whirlpool: chaotic, roiling, and liable to suck you in and suck you under. When we consider leadership, we often look simply at one side of a dualistic tension. The leadership we like as opposed to that which we need. Leadership as enabling rather than control. The leadership we exert as opposed to that which we experience.

In part this references a broader shift in my own understanding of Organisations, and the social systems that suffuse them: that we need to think not in one dimension, but in many. Leadership is contextual, and almost certainly internally conflicted if we try to narrow it down to one view.

Perhaps our challenge, as we build out our more Socially Dynamic Organisations, is to build a breadth and diversity of understanding and approach, and to consider the mechanisms of fairness and balance that can underpin it. I want to explore this further by building out some work around legitimacy of leadership, which is emerging as one of the areas most on my mind over the last couple of weeks.

About julianstodd

Author and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the Social Age. I’ve written ten books, and over 2,000 articles, and still learning...
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