Self and System: Imperfect Leadership

How do we lead in complex and dynamic environments? Environments and contexts where the ‘right’ way forward is not always clear, or where there is apparently no right way at all. What guides our actions, and can we ever be ‘right’ in how we treat people all the time?

It’s possible to be an effective leader, but can we always be a ‘good’ one?

Yesterday i shared a new piece of work around ‘The Moral Leader’: today i am revisiting that, with a view to refining and finding my language.

There are some key elements of leadership that i want to explore in this new body of work: what guides our sense of right and wrong, how do we calibrate it against both the system and the actions of others, are there ever absolute boundaries of right and wrong, and what fixed points if any can we use to guide or shape our decisions and actions?

I am developing this work for a programme that i am running at the end of the year, which will follow the same format of enquiry and social collaboration as the Quiet Leadership work.

The central premise is set up as ‘navigating the imperfections of self and system’, to incorporate that neither systems, nor ourselves within them, alone, will give us ‘good’.

I’m still very uncertain about the name of this work: the working title is ‘The Moral Leader’, but that may be too constrictive.

‘The Imperfect Leader’ may be more accurate, because it reflects how we cannot be accountable and true to many different contexts at once.

Or possibly ‘Conflicted Leadership’, because a theme of this work is that we are drawn in, and accountable in, different directions.

My current thinking about structure is revised as follows:

The Map – to explore the landscape of our decision making – our moral landscape – to consider who drew that map – and whether we ever get lost.

The Compass – to ask what tools help us to find our direction – and to consider if we trust that compass – does it give an absolute direction, or a relative one. And is ‘true north’ the same for all of us?

The Community – what is our relationship with the people we make this journey with, and how do they act upon us – what is the power of consensus and opposition – do we make each other better?

The Journey – to consider how we make the journey of leadership – how do we set course – what pace do we travel at – how mindful are we of our location.

I will continue to iterate this work as i finalise a design for a prototype programme.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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