by Erwin Schwella

9 October  2020

Given a changed context, academic efforts must increasingly rely on evidence-based, scientific knowledge. To ensure its relevancy, we must also ask: What does it mean anyway? This question becomes even more important as wicked problems increase exponentially in nature, scope, and impact.

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On academic relevance and relevant academics

Sir Austin Bradford Hill (1897 – 1991), an English epidemiologist and statistician, demonstrated the connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Hill pioneered clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of medical treatment through randomized treatment allocation and blinded outcome assessment.

This resulted in evidence-based medicine, postulating that, while theory and fundamental research are essential, these academic efforts nevertheless provide an insufficient basis for the application of scientific knowledge. Such application also requires applied research in relevant settings.

Hill formulated these four questions on relevance for discoverers and users of academic outputs.

Why did you start?
What did you do?
What answer did you get?
And what does it mean anyway?

What does it mean anyway? is the relevance question.

This question will become significantly more relevant in academic debates on academic action, scientific rigour, and social impact in post COVID-19. Wicked problems will increase exponentially in nature, scope, and impact. At the same time, resources to deal with these increasing and more complex wicked problems academically and practically will diminish dramatically.

The pragmatic answer is that both scientific rigour and social impact are necessary in the continued quest for academic relevance.

On wicked problem contextual challenges

Post-COVID-19, the unholy trinity of wicked problems – inequality, poverty. and unemployment – will spread like a global virus. Myriads of related deeper problems will spawn from this trinity, driven by contemporaneous contextual challenges.

The Global Risks Report 2019 refers to these contextual challenges as a global-wide presence of worrying geopolitical and geo-economic tensions, which if unresolved, “…will hinder the world’s ability to deal with a growing range of collective challenges, from the mounting evidence of environmental degradation to the increasing disruptions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

This was written pre-COVID-19.

COVID-19 makes these assessments significantly more complex and will result in adding more, and potentially more destructive, wicked problems to The Global Risks Report 2020.

The current reality is that the future is not what it used to be.

This significantly and profoundly impacts the academic, professional, and practical question for academic practices: And what does it mean anyway? COVID-19 will remain and be an ever increasing wicked academic and policy problem well into the future and will affect the continuing quest for academic relevance.

The other three questions also become more relevant for academic practice and practicing academics: Why did you start? What did you do? What answer did you get?

For current purposes, it is argued that multiplying, broadening, and deepening post- COVID-19 wicked societal problems necessitates innovative insights and actions into these three academic focus areas:

  • social innovation
  • engaged scholarship
  • learning leadership

These focus areas require trans-disciplinary and inter-sectoral academic, professional, and practical analyses and applications in terms of theory, method, and practice.

Together they represent a potential kick-start of the quest for pracacademic relevance and relevant pracacademics both during and post-COVID-19.

By consistently and consciously asking these questions, we can co-create relevant solutions to wicked problems in trans-disciplinary and intersectoral knowledge partnerships.

On social innovation, engaged scholarship, and learning leadership

Social Innovation according to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, “is the process of developing and deploying effective solutions to challenging and often systemic social and environmental issues in support of social progress. Social innovation is not the prerogative or privilege of any organizational form or legal structure. Solutions often require the active collaboration of constituents across government, business, and the non-profit world.”

Engaged scholarship is the co-creation and application of knowledge in relationships that increases the capacity to address the issues of all partners. Engaged scholarship is participatory and values collaborative community partners. It benefits the participating community partners from all sectors in ways that are identified by them as being significant and effective. Engaged scholarship furthers the scholarship of the pracademics involved in ways that are recognized as having academic impact and community impact. (Recognition: Indiana University-Purdue University)

Learning leadership is relevant when good leadership requires facilitating prototype solutions to complex adaptive wicked societal problems. Good leadership, for this purpose, is leadership without easy answers. Good leadership, as effective and ethical leadership, can and should benefit from many influences and inputs.

Learning leadership requires evidence-based influences, inputs, such as evidence, information, knowledge, and informed partnerships to enhance co-creative participation. This contributes to the quality and legitimacy of leadership analysis and action.

Learning leadership facilitates learning that builds individual competencies and institutional capacity towards resilient, agile, and sustainable prototype solutions. Instead of having “strong” leaders falsely pretend to have easy answers, learning leadership relies on learning experimentation rather than direct action to address dilemmatic challenges.

Learning leadership facilitates a process to find answers to the following learning leadership questions:

  • What happened? Answers to this question result in systematic and descriptive qualitative and quantitative assessments of performance trends based on empirical evidence.
  • Why did this happen? Answers to this question result in a diagnostic analysis based upon provisional explanations of actions and the probable impact of these actions related to increasing or decreasing performance.
  • What can I/we learn from this? Answers to this question uncover lessons towards improved individual learning-based competencies contributing to personal mastery, team learning, and systems thinking which challenge current mental models through individual empowerment and team learning.
  • How can the learning be used and built back into the system to improve the quality and performance of the system? Answers to this question result in enhanced prognostic institutional capacity building towards continuous performance improvement.

Social innovation, engaged scholarship and learning leadership provisionally meet the requirement for being “pracademically” relevant as they explicitly address the questions: Why did you start? What did you do? What answer did you get? And what does it mean anyway? By consistently and consciously asking these questions, we can co-create relevant solutions to wicked problems in trans-disciplinary and intersectoral knowledge partnerships.

Erwin Schwella grew up in South Africa during apartheid. He obtained a PhD in Public Governance from Stellenbosch University and became an academic there in 1981. Realizing the real consequences of apartheid, he became an academic and activist critic. During democratization he served to shape new South African governance institutions. Since taking emeritus status from Stellenbosch he serves as Dean: School of Social innovation at Hugenote Kollege in South Africa. Erwin served as the Chair of the ILA Public Leadership Member Interest Group.

If you find these reflections to be of value in your work and life, please consider becoming part of ILA’s leadership community.

by Marlies Veestraeten

2 October 2020

A crisis is not a good time for change. Or is it? In times of crisis, leaders often aim to restore stability as quickly as possible. This is understandable. However, a crisis can also be used as a starting point to deeply explore new ideas and approaches that may be more effective and sustainable in the long run.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has put countries, organizations, and people in “survival mode”. Worldwide, leaders of nations, public institutions, and private organizations are still navigating through this crisis in a variety of ways. The coronavirus has urged governments and other types of organizations to take brisk measures to minimize damage in terms of the spread of the virus, number of infections, societal and economic consequences, organizational longevity, employee layoffs, etc. Although crises come with a great deal of uncertainty and ambiguity, they also present an opportunity for change (Fragouli & Ibidapo, 2015; Jaques, 2007; Wang, 2008). So, paradoxically, crisis leadership may actually hinder deep learning and real reform.

Crisis leadership or change leadership?

Crises are often managed by adopting mindsets and taking actions that focus on “bringing things back to normal” as quickly as possible (Boin & ‘t Hart, 2003; Jaques, 2007). This implies that leaders take control, emphasize existing values, and rely on traditional “savoir faire” so that stability will soon return. It is a comprehensible reaction to defend the structures and policies that are already in place in order to diminish the unsettling sense of disruption. However, this kind of response limits the extent to which current practices and states of affairs are questioned and it does not promote the exploration of novel ideas and approaches that may actually be more effective and sustainable in the long run (Boin & ‘t Hart, 2003).

Crises are perceived as a significant threat to nations’ and organizations’ stability and survival (Wang, 2008). In times of disruption, people look to their leaders to act and alleviate uncertainty. The same conditions hold in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. The general public tends to rely on its leaders and institutions to have its best interests at heart in terms of safety and wellbeing. Likewise, employees expect their leaders and top management teams to communicate with confidence about having things under control, to provide feasible solutions, and to minimize layoffs and pay cuts. Fundamental organizational change and reform imply a critical questioning of and departure from the status quo. Leaders could actually use the disruption a crisis brings as a window of opportunity by acknowledging that current practices and beliefs are, in fact, suboptimal and that change is needed (Boing & ‘t Hart, 2003). Yet, the priorities set during crisis leadership – that is, controlling damage and reaffirming existing modes of action that will restore stability – inherently reflect the idea that a crisis is not a good time for change. The more leaders focus on ending a crisis as rapidly as possible, the less they may question their usual modus operandi.

Crisis leadership implies being constructive: finding suitable responses to operational and tactical issues as fast as possible. In dealing with a crisis, leaders reassure stakeholders of the fact that pre–existing policies and practices were and will continue to be effective (Boin & ‘t Hart, 2003). In doing so, they swiftly make crucial decisions (even bypass routine decision-making procedures to act faster), use a top-down approach without much bottom-up input, and communicate convincingly about the path taken (Boin & ‘t Hart, 2003; Thach, 2012). In addition, they try to pay attention to human needs and concerns, show understanding, and rebuild trust (Carroll & Hatakenaka, 2001; Thach, 2012).

In the current context of the COVID-19 crisis, public leaders introduce different measures to ensure damage control. For instance, people are asked to engage in social distancing, wear mouth masks, and stay in confinement when needed. Most public leaders also increase investments in medical material and support for healthcare professionals to help them cope with the large numbers of infected citizens. The underlying rationale is that after the virus reaches its peak, things can slowly but steadily go back to how they were before. Private and other types of organizations also react with different measures: employees are required to work from home or work part-time. Other workers are being prepared for cost cutting or even layoffs. Again, these actions are based on the expectation that after a certain period of time everyone can get back to business as usual.

The chaotic and uncertain period that countless countries and organizations are going through, however, could be used as a window of opportunity to start thinking of possibilities for change.

Change leadership entails but goes further than crisis leadership: it requires more than being constructive and finding suitable responses to current issues. It means starting with being deconstructive (Boin & ‘t Hart, 2003). Deconstructive in the sense that leaders fundamentally question the legitimacy and effectiveness of existing policies and practices. Only afterwards, they can become constructive again by building alternative visions and narratives that suggest different ways for a more durable future.

Drastic change and reform start with asking uneasy but critical, essential questions. Change leaders ensure involved parties (managers, employees, citizens, colleagues, etc.) that the desire to stabilize the situation as quickly as possible is a normal response but that it may not be the optimal choice in the long term. Rather than interpreting the crisis as a threat and rapidly acting upon it to make it go away as fast as possible, the state of ambiguity can be used as a learning opportunity and a momentum for change. Rethinking the status quo and considering drastic reform can lead to increased organizational vitality, adaptation, and viability (Barnett & Pratt, 2000; Stern & Sundelius, 2002, Wang, 2008). To this end, different stakeholders’ reactions and dissent are considered valuable sources of information (Burnes, Huges, & By, 2016).

The Coronavirus pandemic is a “wicked” problem for which there is no list of perfect measures to take or decisions to make (Jain, 2019). Given that the current situation is tremendously complex, the majority of people are drastically pulled out of their comfort zones and have to make sense of a situation they never imagined before. The chaotic and uncertain period that countless countries and organizations are going through, however, could be used as a window of opportunity to start thinking of possibilities for change. For example, governments could ask themselves if their governance systems, economic models, and societal structures will continue to be viable. Future pandemics are not a matter of “if” but of “when” and “how.” The current ways of leading and distributing resources may not continue to be effective nor sustainable. Plenty of organizations may have some soul searching to do when it comes to valuing employees who keep production processes running and ensure quality on the frontlines, or how current organizational values and practices can be critically evaluated and changed for the better.

From crisis to change… not the other way around

Change leadership requires courage. It may initially involve more uncertainty and even resistance. Leaders who aim to challenge current states of affairs in chaotic, insecure times should thoroughly consider opposite points of view, envision the long-term consequences and potential improvements to the best of their abilities, and gather broad support for their cause from the different parties involved and affected (Boin & ‘t Hart, 2003). Yes, engaging in change leadership during a crisis can be risky because proposing radically new visions and approaches can worry or upset different stakeholders or worse, generate another crisis. However, when its aim is to create purpose and ensure sustainable organizing in the future, it may be worth its while (Heifetz & Linsky, 2017).

(*) In this article, key take-aways for leaders of public and private organizations are discussed based on Boin, A., & ‘t Hart, P. (2003). Public Leadership in Times of Crisis: Mission Impossible? Public Administration Review, 63(5), 544-553.

Headshot of Marlies Veestraeten

Marlies Veestraeten is Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at Neoma Business School, France. She obtained her PhD. in Business Economics at the Faculty of Economics and Business of KU Leuven, Belgium. Her research focuses on leadership, diversity and inclusion, and team functioning. She has participated in several conferences of the International Leadership Association.

If you find these reflections to be of value in your work and life, please consider becoming part of ILA’s leadership community.

Photo of Japanese Zen Garden
Photo of Japanese Zen Garden

by Mike Hardy

24 September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare our vulnerabilities, divisions, falsehoods, and brutal inequalities. These deep divides and holes in the fabric of our societies weaken our resolve for peace and lead us to question what it is about our cultures that creates so much room for insecurity and what role better leadership might play.

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Who could have known the battlegrounds that would be established during 2020? Among these, the public health crisis and pandemic with its huge impact on the lives of people and on wealth and wealth creation, the deepening fissures in societies and neighbourhoods, the exhortations that we were all in something together when clearly we were not, the attack via closures on young people and their schooling, the virus’ direct attack on the old and more vulnerable including those in care facilities, each highlighting the amplification of the unevenness and disadvantage that we must deal with and live through — coming together as they have has created a near perfect storm! At the same time, it seems also that the world is living through culture wars against the institutions of liberal democracy — parliaments, the courts, the media, local governments, public and civil servants, and the checks and balances of accountability. With one eye on the voters and the other on the consolidation of power and influence, governments with authoritarian tendencies are attacking these rival centres of power in our societies. The current active dialogues around the media, the attacks on political correctness, MeToo and Black Lives Matter, the uneven support of large sectors of the global economy by governments, our events and hospitality industry sectors in perilous states impacting both high and popular culture — these all seem to be fights about culture, about right and left, about race, big or small government, single-minded ways-of-working. Few would have forecast such a culture war might break out. We are not in peaceful times.

How many fights are in progress across the globe, in Asia, Latin America, the nations of the former Soviet Union, within Europe and the European Union and in the USA? The fights seem to start when things go wrong, and those charged with responsibility, essentially governments, fail to step up to adversity with responsible leadership and more readily rely on blaming others, fear, and prejudice. The proverbial ‘buck’ fails to stop where we used to accept it should. Adversity, be it the product of a financial systems crash, an austerity-led economic policy, a pandemic, or an accelerating climate emergency amplifies the inadequacy of our systems, exacerbates inequalities, and destabilises communities in ways that open the opportunities for the centralisation of power that feels less and less the need to be accountable. One consequence might be that the liberal democracy that we know, with the checks and balances and abilities, however imperfect, to listen and hear ordinary voices of the many stakeholders, may be on the wane, about to be replaced by top-down revolution, or by a complete retreat by government.

My personal research is on leadership for peace. These are indeed unusual times for leaders. Last year, on the 20th Anniversary of the 1999 United Nations Declaration of the Program of Action on a Culture of Peace, peace scholars were reminded of the agreed road map for a moral journey from a culture of hatred and violence to a culture of tolerance and peace. In 1999, world authorities made a commitment that all needed to consciously make peace and nonviolence a part of our daily existence. We have not done very well.

There are no pathways to peace, no amount of scholarship, research, plans, no magic formulas nor clever interventions. As Mahatma Ghandi exhorted: “peace is the path.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare our vulnerabilities, divisions, falsehoods, and brutal inequalities. Since this global human crisis began taking its toll on all of us — the forces of division and hate have been placing the lives of vulnerable communities including religious and ethnic minorities, migrants, women, children and youth, in peril. Even old people and those with disabilities are not spared. It is especially disheartening to witness a surge in hate speech, xenophobia, racism, and many forms of discrimination. These deep divides and holes in the fabric of our societies weaken our resolve for peace and lead us to question what it is about our culture that creates so much room for insecurity.

Studying peace interests me because it still attracts more recognition in negative forms — the absence of violence or conflict, rather than the full and clear acceptance of peace as a prerequisite for our survival, or at the very least for our coping with the dominant challenges of our time. We will need both a positive peace and a positive culture if we are to stand a chance.

A positive peace is far more than the mere absence of violence and conflict. It is a way of being, a set of attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peacefulness in and between communities and societies. Similarly, positive culture is more than a description of characteristics and identities. It is a set of values, behaviours, and attributes that enable and promote human flourishing, reinforce collaborative compassion and peaceful co-existence. We are still struggling to secure both. But what I find compelling is that all the scholarship and practice around better or the best leadership point at the very same qualities.

Better leadership, like peace, is a critical factor for human flourishing. With better leadership societies can begin to address many of the sources of human insecurity —but often, just as with peace, we remain more aware of its absence than its existence. A positive culture as an enabling environment is also elusive. A culture that promotes civic awareness and participation, social equity and the wellbeing of a community — hence peacefulness for families and neighbourhoods — can often be more difficult to observe than a malevolent culture that strengthens some groups to initiate and perpetuate exclusion and, at times, violent conflict.

ILA’s agenda for better leadership could not be more vital and can be part of a change agenda that promotes the positives in both peace and culture. I was drawn to a powerful question when I looked at peace, culture, and leadership in this way: When this is all over — how do we want the world to be different? (See the excellent essay by Elif Shafak, How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division: The Powerful, Pocket-Sized Manifesto, 27 Aug. 2020)

So, now, as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic, and the many associated challenges of rising job-losses, deepening economic inequalities, the alarming increase in hate crimes across the world, we should take responsibility for considering an answer. To do this we need to be clear about where we are now; we need to understand the crisis and the conditions and we must look to how leadership and its development can help with the evident disillusionment felt about the state we are in. We know where we do not want to go and be: our social capital — the bonds and bridges that create positive community — must comprise positive social relations and networks, must help rebuild the confidence that the generations that follow will have more, not fewer opportunities. And we must restore the beliefs that we once held by default that our created systems, cherished institutions, and social safety nets are more than illusions. We must actively banish the dark forces than breed exclusion and divide.

Finally, I would like to underline my belief in the importance of hope. Hope is a deliberate feeling, based on evidence. We are attracted to hope; we have hope because we see evidence of a better future. But even hope will not bring the different world we wish for… that needs direct actions and a new direction. The discussions that will take place at 2020 conference, Leading at the Edge, will provide opportunity to chart how we want the world to be different; that’s one of the reasons this is such an important and timely conference. It’s going to be amazing, and it needs to be!

There are no pathways to peace, no amount of scholarship, research, plans, no magic formulas nor clever interventions. As Mahatma Ghandi exhorted: “peace is the path”. How true that is also of better leadership!

Mike Hardy CMG OBE FRSA is Founding Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University, UK and Chair of the International Leadership Association Board of Directors. After a distinguished career, he returned to the academic world in 2011 as Professor of Intercultural Relations at Coventry University. Mike is active with UNESCO and the UN Alliance of Civilizations; he is currently lead advisor to the World Forum for Intercultural Dialogue in Baku, the World Peace Forum in Indonesia and directs the RISING Global Peace Forum at Coventry. Professor Hardy has been twice honoured, awarded the OBE in 2001 for his peace-building work in the Middle East, and appointed a Companion of Honour of St Michael and St George in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, June 2010, for his work internationally in Intercultural Dialogue. Mike is a trustee of The Faith and Belief Forum the leading interfaith charity in the UK and Board Chair of the US-based International Leadership Association.

If you find these reflections to be of value in your work and life, please consider becoming part of ILA’s leadership community.

Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together

by Margaret Heffernan

15 September 2020

"The only thing we know about the future is that we do not know the future." What implications does that have for leadership and the structures of our organizations, particularly amid rapidly moving crisis? How does this change the relationship between leaders, followers, and the public at large?

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Listen to ILA’s “10 Minutes On Leadership” podcast with Margaret on Spotify! Margaret will be speaking on her new book at #ILA2020Global.

The one thing we know about the future is that we do not know the future. Experts in forecasting now say that the window for accurate prediction is no more than 400 days. And that only applies if you are open-minded, rigorous in reviewing a broad range of information sources, apply probabilities to your conclusions, and routinely adjust these in the light of new information. If that isn’t you, the horizon is more like 150 days. Kiss goodbye to your five-year plan.

So, it’s never been more critical for organizations to stay fiercely attuned to early warning signals, and to be able to respond fast when clarity emerges. Which means that leadership cannot reside just at the top. A highly networked organization, in which information and insight travel fast and without hindrance, is the only coherent response to a world whose business conditions change overnight. The kind of business that sees early and responds fast will appreciate that everything depends on people.

Intimations of this were felt early in the pandemic. Around the world, most leaders at every level instinctively knew that their priority had to be to look after their people, whether working on site, from home—or furloughed. To their amazement, they found that caring about people made productivity go up, not down. By necessity, much work moved to smaller, ad hoc, teams. Leaders had no choice but to trust their people to know what to do and keep work moving. What they discovered was that, absent the heavy hand of scientific management, workers were creative, committed improvisers.

Maintaining that level creativity and motivation is now the prime leadership challenge. But devolved, often improvised, working requires that people are well informed about what is needed and why. Building on ten years of her work on trust, new research from Professor Veronica Hope-Hailey discovered that, while trust in leaders during the pandemic remained high, workers wanted to be trusted with better information. People are eager to make strong, serious contributions but for that, they need current, up-to-date knowledge. In a future where creative responsiveness can spell the difference between survival and failure, the aim must now be to enable deeper participation on the part of the entire workforce.

We saw the beginning of this trend before the pandemic, with more organizations finding new ways to gain greater insight from the people they hire. At the Bank of England, productivity gains were driven not by strategy defined at the top, but by a wide range of experiments designed by the workforce. To capture cross-generational insight, Capita now has a young employee on its board. Acknowledging the failure of senior management to understand its daily, operational problems, the Post Office recently put a serving postmaster on its board. Other firms are creating shadow boards, designed to reflect current demographics and diversity, and charged with honest feedback on strategic thinking. The proliferation of open strategy and open innovation platforms speaks to a growing awareness that organizations can only be as alert and responsive as employee participation is allowed to be.

A new social contract between leaders and followers will require that both are taken seriously as producers of public good.

This trend has become even more important, now that we have been made to recognize how far our lives depend on some of the least visible, and least rewarded, in the workforce. Where a great deal of leadership has traditionally been focused on markets and consumers, the COVID-19 crisis re-directed attention to the producers of goods and services. That this work has dignity and meaning came as a revelation to many. For leaders, it should force a re-definition of where the value of work comes from. There is no point asking people to go back to work for the good of the economy, if the economy does not work for them. As Michael Sandel argues, leaders must now consider the common good to which everyone in their organizations contribute.

To date, this has been discussed in terms of a firm’s purpose: the public understanding of why and how the firm makes itself relevant and useful to the world. But purpose is a much-traduced word. Bland purpose statements (“to help Britain prosper”) convince no one of anything meaningful. Acknowledging that organizations both give to and take from society requires that leaders do likewise—something wealthy firms discovered when castigated for taking government furlough payments. The bromidic statements following Black Lives Matter protests were frequently crafted without any participation of the marginalized groups concerned. Hiring senior women does nothing for gender diversity if they’re sidelined and excluded. The decades and billions of dollars spent on diversity programs have produced so little change that it’s obvious almost no one believed that equality of opportunity was a serious business issue. That signatories to the American Business Roundtable’s redefinition of the purpose of business have been cited for more environmental and labor-related infractions than other companies only amplifies incredulity. The experience of the COVID-19 crisis, coupled with radical transparency, now makes it critical for leaders to consider deeply the health and reciprocity of their relationship to the society that supports them. If purpose, however expressed, isn’t real, then it can have no galvanizing impact on the energy and creativity on the workforce. Whenever we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis, we will run into an economic crisis and we are already in a climate crisis—which means that we need better thinking, together with higher levels of commitment, trust and energy, than ever before.

A new social contract between leaders and followers will require that both are taken seriously as producers of public good. In a complex world where we cannot see the future clearly until it is upon us, listening to all voices, entrusting each contributor with knowledge and responsibility, is the only way to create organizations with the creativity and legitimacy they need, and we need, to remain relevant. That means greater participation in decision-making. It means greater security in jobs that treat people as people, not machines. It means the end of the gig economy which allows to individuals neither participation nor safety.

A century of so-called scientific management persuaded generations of leaders to believe that their job was to manage resources with maximum efficiency in order to drive consumption and serve markets. Now, that appears not just irrelevant; it seems to be the very source of our ills. The leaders of the future won’t see their job as discerning the future, but as listening to the voices who can imagine how to build it.

Headshot of Margaret Heffernan

Margaret Heffernan is the author of the best-selling UNCHARTED: How to Map the Future Together (2020, Simon & Schuster), nominated for a Financial Times Best Business Book award. She is a Professor of Practice at the University of Bath, Lead Faculty for the Forward Institute’s Responsible Leadership Programme and, through Merryck & Co., mentors CEOs and senior executives of major global organizations. The author of six books, Margaret’s third book, Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril was named one of the most important business books of the decade by the Financial Times. In 2015, she was awarded the Transmission Prize for A Bigger Prize: Why Competition isn’t Everything and How We Do Better, described as “meticulously researched…engagingly written…universally relevant and hard to fault.” Her TED talks have been seen by over twelve million people and in 2015 TED published Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes. Learn more:

If you find these reflections to be of value in your work and life, please consider becoming part of ILA’s leadership community.