What she said…

May 3, 2020

Paradigm Shift is not an over-the-counter laxative.

However, I do encourage you to think of it as a highly effective turdilogical expellant next time it is used in an executive briefing paper.

New Normal’s alliteration is pretty much all it has going for it. It is utterly meaningless, save that right now there are bedrooms of teenage boys trembling with the thought that “The New Normals” would be a great name for a band. The rise of New Normal however has killed off Sea Change. No-one says Sea Change anymore. It is as if there is a fashion in the latest management bullshit and Sea Change is like Tank Top.

Who wins when language is synthesized into meaningless alliteration for the clickerati?

More importantly, I wonder who loses?

For as long as I have cared about leadership, I have felt excluded from being considered a leader. I am shy, introvert and I dread the sound of my own voice. Neither do I have the energy to care about the latest fashion in management merde-de-jour.

To stand in front of people and share my thoughts on anything felt like the height of implausible self-regard. To assert that I knew best sat so uncomfortably that I could only say things out loud if my words were lagged so tightly in caveats as to be muffled into submission.

I therefore came to accept that the only people who could be leaders were arseholes.

I felt sorry for them at one level, it must be such a burden to go through life being one. Part of me readily understood that this was why they were paid so much. If you can only tolerate the company of people who agree with you, and still be so sensitive to getting your own way, then that must be a terrible curse and the compensation must be in share options. In effect you could only be a leader because you were unemployable in other roles that involved calm, decency, listening, teamwork, kindness and empathy. Thank goodness we had found a way to let them live among us rather than have them locked up.

It is why I have accepted that someone like Donald Trump could be President of the United States. For his type of leadership style, he is the poster child.

He is The Platonic Dick, and I mean that kindly.

These people will always exist, but I think the time has come when we must accept that the social experiment of giving them leadership roles has reached the point when the negative side-effects are outweighing the therapeutic benefits.

For some years now there has been heartening evidence of new leaders coming to the fore. Brilliant people doing brilliant work, and it is a joy to see. Even so, it has also felt that sometimes this new thinking was outside of the mainstream. Pockets of wonder, but still far too much of the old ways. Now however we have a moment in time that we have not had for decades. A time when we no longer have to tolerate old ways that serve only to marginalise concepts of decency, care, community and thoughtfulness just because these values do not fit the caricature of strong, ball-crushing leadership.

As I reach the stage of my working life when I can reflect thoughts with more confidence than I would have dared to say out loud a few years ago, I know there are more and more people who provide the most brilliant examples of what leadership now needs to be. I have been blessed to work with some of them and they are wonderful. I know we will be ok because of them.

I have mentioned Trump, so I must also mention the extraordinary person who said these words:

“One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”

One of the most incredibly heartening things in this desperately sad and unsettling time of our lives, is that we have leaders like Jacinda Ardern to be role models in leadership. Jacinda will encourage others who are already on the same path and inspire so many more to join. I am sure she will have weaknesses and insecurities and have her bad days, but she is also exemplifying how generosity, kindness and care trumps intolerance, self-regard and dogma. What she said will carry me forward.

I am so grateful and so reassured that in my working life I have seen old leadership tropes weaken and diminish, and in their place new leadership values emerge. It isn’t certain we will win; we do have to step forward, but we can define leadership our way and we can win.

We can be kind.

Take care

Paul x

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