…thoughts on and about my PhD journey and beyond…

Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933)American psycho...

Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My abstract has been accepted for the Global Servant-Leadership Research Roundtable to be held in Melbourne in June.  I am using SL theory (and particularly Sendjaya’s SL Behaviour Scale Model) as an indicator of a worldly leadership mindset.  Here is my abstract:

Leadership Redux: Reconnecting Humanist Concerns with Leadership for the Knowledge Era through the Lens of Servant Leadership

We find ourselves today, in the second decade of the 21st century, embedded in a knowledge-intensive era (Uhl-Bien, Marion, & McKelvey, 2007) framed by the interrelationships between knowledge production as the main driver of growth and wealth creation, globalisation, massification of education and deepening concerns about our world’s environmental sustainability.  As Klenke (2008) argues, these changes are signifiers of a “paradigm shift that is permeating the field of leadership studies” (p. 380) as we move away from 19th century industrial era and machine-age leadership mindsets where command and control practices and heroic leadership models were privileged and still influence leadership practices today.  The shift is towards a different approach, not yet named or fully understood, yet emerging as leadership perspectives appropriate today’s VUCA[1] (Johansen, 2009) environment.

A Servant Leadership (SL) (Greenleaf, 1977; Spears & Lawrence, 2002) redux is not surprising given these turbulent conditions, especially since the Global Financial Crisis (Shiller, 2008; Lamba, 2010).  SL theory is integral to making sense of these conditions which call for different and deeper ways of thinking about our world, our worldviews and our leadership and research practices.  Leaders and followers are articulating what they may have long felt—that profits above all else and rampant consumerism are not serving the purpose of our lives and they are leading to unsustainable business practices that are harming people and the planet (Evans, 2008).  It is also emblematic of the renaissance of humanist principles of leadership (Follett, 1924, 1925; Mayo, 1933; Barnard, 1938) taken up from the latter stages of the 20th century, for example, by McGregor (1960),  Drucker (1993), Hock (1999), Raelin (2003), Senge et al (2004) and Turnbull (2011).

One definition of leadership that accords with the principles of SL and works with the conditions already described is that “leaders are in the business of energy management” (Kets de Vries, 2003 p. 111).  This definition acknowledges that leadership is deeply bound to the sustainable use of our creative energies. It also elevates the judicious governance of energy of self, others and the environment alongside, not subordinate to, financial governance, and therefore towards more holistic approaches to governance (Elkington, 1998; Bragdon, 2006, 2009).

My research has found that appropriate leadership literacies for the knowledge era rest on these humanist principles and this expanded notion of governance and, indeed, that SL is central to this endeavour.  Such leadership literacies bring issues of sustainability and complexity into the leadership fold, based on the premise that leadership is not set apart from the living systems—human and environmental—that we serve (Davis, 2010a, b).  Here the term literacy suggests more than just the ability to read and write, to be literate also implies a deeper understanding of the particular phenomenon under review and the ability to make sense of, embody, interpret and interact with complex sources of information and experiences inherent in that domain. 

The leadership literacies I have determined from the literature as appropriate for the Knowledge Era have, in turn, been used to investigate whether they are yet evident in Australian universities, by asking university professional staff about their lived experience of work and leadership.  The responses were analysed against the selected themes of this inquiry which are grounded in a SL Behavioral Scale (SLBS) (Sendjaya, Sarros, & Santora, 2008)[2] with the addition of sustainability development; leadership as work, i.e. process and practice; worldly leadership; and learning metabolism.  I expect my findings to elucidate that the re-emergence of humanist concerns in general, and Servant Leadership theory in particular, are strong foundations for leadership literacies for the Knowledge Era.

References

Barnard, C. I. 1938. The functions of the executive. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Bragdon, J. H. 2006. Profit for life, how capitalism excels:  Case studies in living asset management. Cambridge, MA: Society for Organization Learning Inc.

Bragdon, J. H. 2009. Capitalism as a human system: The value of relational equity. Reflections, 10(1): pp. 1-8.

Davis, H. 2010a. Other-centredness as a leadership attribute: From ego to eco centricity. Journal of Spirituality, Leadership and Management, 4(1): pp. 43-52.

Davis, H. 2010b. The sustainability zeitgeist as a gps for worldly leadership within the discourse of globalisation, European Academy of Management 10th Annual Conference: Back to the future. Rome: EURAM.

Drucker, P. F. 1993. Post-capitalist society. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann,.

Elkington, J. 1998. Cannibals with forks: The triple bottom line of 21st century business. Gabriola Island, BC ; Stony Creek, CT: New Society Publishers.

Evans, P. 2008. Is an alternative globalization possible? Politics Society, 36(2): pp. 271 – 305.

Follett, M. P. 1924. Creative experience. New York: Longmans, Green and Co.

Follett, M. P. 1925. Dynamic administration: The collected papers (H.C. Metcalf & L.F. Urwick 1940 ed.). New York: Harper & Bros.

Greenleaf, R. K. 1977. Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York: Paulist Press.

Hock, D. 1999. Birth of the chaordic age. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Johansen, R. 2009. Leaders make the future: Ten new leadership skills for an uncertain world. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Kets de Vries, M. F. R. 2003. Leaders, fools and imposters:  Essays on the psychology of leadership (Rev ed.). New York: iUniverse Inc.

Klenke, K. 2008. Qualitative research in the study of leadership. Bingley, UK: Emerald.

Lamba, H. S. 2010. Understanding the ideological roots of our global crises: A pre-requisite for radical change. Futures, 42(10): pp. 1079-1087.

Mayo, E. 1933. The human problems of an industrial civilization. New York,: The Macmillan company.

McGregor, D. 1960. The human side of enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Raelin, J. A. 2003. Creating leaderful organizations: How to bring out leadership in everyone. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.

Sendjaya, S., Sarros, J. C., & Santora, J. C. 2008. Defining and measuring servant leadership behaviour in organizations. Journal of Management Studies, 45(2): pp. 402 – 424.

Senge, P. M., Scharmer, C. O., Jaworski, J., & Flowers, B. S. 2004. Presence: Human purpose and the field of the future. Cambridge, MA: SoL.

Shiller, R. J. 2008. The subprime solution: How today’s global financial crisis happened and what to do about it. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press.

Spears, L. C., & Lawrence, M. 2002. Focus on leadership: Servant-leadership for the twenty-first century. New York: J. Wiley & Sons.

Turnbull, S., Case, P., Edwards, G., Schedlitzki, D., & Simpson, P. (Eds.). 2011. Worldly leadership: Alternative wisdoms for a complex world. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., & McKelvey, B. 2007. Complexity leadership theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era. The Leadership Quarterly, 18(4): pp. 298-318.

van Dierendonck, D. 2011. Servant leadership: A review and synthesis. Journal of Management, 37(4): pp. 1228-1261.


[1] Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA)

[2] The SLBS was also cited in van Dierendonck, D. 2011. Servant leadership: A review and synthesis. Journal of Management, 37(4): pp. 1228-1261.

Here is my presentation which was given as part of a panel discussion about leadership and complexity for the International Leadership Association’s annual conference , London on 29 October, 2011.  The full document containing the panel abstract and the four presentation abstracts can be found here and David Holzmer’s post about this event can be found here.

Complexity and Uncertainty in Universities in Australia: Emerging Leadership Literacies for Knowledge Enterprises in Times of Flux

Description: Leadership literacies for the knowledge era enterprise rest on humanist principles of Servant Leadership theory and interconnect with sustainability and complexity through the premise that leadership is not set apart from the living systems-human and environmental-that we serve. Leaders also understand that these living systems are dynamic, emergent and unpredictable.

Abstract Although only history can ultimately confirm it to be true, anecdotal evidence suggests that we are witnessing new times framed by the interrelationships between knowledge production as the main driver of growth and wealth creation, globalisation, massification of education and deepening concerns about our world’s environmental sustainability. Added to these complexities is a reliance on the certitude of risk assessment and management that pervades the sector. However, the greatest risk to universities in Australia, as elsewhere, are changes to government policy, particularly when these policy changes reduce funding in an already underperforming knowledge nation (Considine et al. 2001; Wood 2003).

These times of change and uncertainty call for different and deeper ways of thinking about our world, our worldviews and our leadership practices. We find ourselves today, in the second decade of the 21st century, well and truly embedded in the knowledge era. Here universities are both sites of knowledge work and in the business of knowledge acquisition and dissemination and therefore can be seen as both drivers and vehicles of knowledge production, the main economic driver of growth in this knowledge-intensive era. Leading productively and promoting a culture of learning and performance are therefore vital to the sector and the society it serves.

Complexity theories (see for example, Waldrop 1992; Kurtz & Snowden 2003; Uhl-Bien et al. 2007; Obolensky 2010) are one way to surface these issues and make our thinking visible and encourage dialogue about the turbulent and challenging conditions we are experiencing. Through the lenses of complexity theory and proximal modes of understanding (Cooper & Law 1993) we see other ways of understanding the world unfettered by an ideology of neo-liberalism.

Instead, these world views rest on an assumption that complex social processes underpin our complex planet and our emerging worlds because they explicate the processes that lead to results, not just the results in isolation:

…taken-for-granted states of being, human or organizational, are products or effects of complex social processes. And if we want to understand them, we need a sociology of becoming.  Proximal thinking views organizations as mediating networks, as circuits of continuous contact and motion-more like assemblages of organizings…organizations so conceived are really effects created by a set of mediating measuring instruments (Cooper & Law 1993, pp. 238-40).

One concept of leadership that resonates well for universities and other knowledge-intensive enterprises and that work with the conditions already described is that “leaders are in the business of energy management” (Kets de Vries 2003). This definition privileges a view that that leadership is deeply tied to the sustainable use of our creative energies. It also elevates the judicious governance of energy of self, others and the environment alongside, not subordinate to, financial governance and into a triple bottom line (Elkington 1998) approach to governance.

Leadership literacies for the knowledge era rest on humanist principles of Servant Leadership theory (Greenleaf 1977) and interconnect to the domains of sustainability and complexity through the premise that leadership is not set
apart from the living systems-human and environmental-that we serve. Leaders also understand that these living systems are dynamic, emergent and unpredictable (Davis 2010). Leadership literacies for the knowledge era enterprise also  expand the notion of leadership to incorporate the process of leadership alongside post industrial and post heroic understandings of how leaders and followers (Chaleff 2009; Ladkin 2010), customers and other stakeholders contribute to the knowledge enterprise. Leadership therefore is deeply personal yet paradoxically all about what can be achieved collectively with everyone inside enterprise’s circle of leadership.

Further to presenting these emerging trends for leadership in knowledge era enterprises this presentation will share preliminary findings from a current PhD study investigating whether or not leadership literacies appropriate for the knowledge era are being practiced in universities in Australia today. These ‘leadership literacies for the knowledge era’ and their focus on complexity, sustainability (Dunphy et al. 2007) and servant leadership (Greenleaf 1977; Spears & Lawrence 2002; Sendjaya et al. 2008) theory will be further explored through the preliminary findings of this research. Complex Adaptive Systems theory will be used to as a way of recognising the cognitive leaps needed to attune mindsets to appropriate way of thinking about leadership appropriate for the knowledge era and the turbulent times that beset the 21st century. For example, one key element of Complex Adaptive Systems theory is to understand the world as an interconnected system and that “each of these systems is a network of many “agents” acting in parallel” (Holland, in Waldrop 1992, p. 145). Some of these “agents acting in parallel” have come together as panellists for this session and are also  indicated by the similarities of the themes from this PhD research project from Australia which began in 2008 and the findings from the IBM research report “Capitalising on complexity” (Berman & Korsten 2010).

As well as outlining the preliminary findings from my PhD study, this presentation will focus on a different complexity theory than those outlined by the other presenters in this panel discussion. The VUCA movement (Johansen 2009) encapsulates the turbulence-the Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity-that mark the 21st century within a VUCA acronym thereby ‘taming’ it to some extent and suggesting ways of working with VUCA rather than feeling
powerless in the face of it.

References

Berman, S. & Korsten, P. 2010. Capitalising on complexity: Insights from the Global Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Study. Portsmouth, UK, IBM Institute for Business Value.
Chaleff, I. 2009. The courageous follower: standing up to and for our leaders. (3rd ed.) San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler.
Considine, M., Marginson, S., Sheehan, P., & Kumnick, M. 2001. The comparative performance of Australia as a knowledge nation. Sydney, Chifley Research Centre.
Cooper, R. & Law, J. 1993. Organization: Distal and Proximal Views. In S. B. Bacharach & P. Gagliardi & B. Mundell (Eds.), Research in the sociology of organizations: Studies of Organizations in the European Tradition, Vol. 13,
Greenwich, Conn: JAI Press, pp. 275-301.
Davis, H. 2010. The sustainability zeitgeist as a GPS for Worldly Leadership within the discourse of globalisation, European Academy of Management 10th Annual Conference: Back to the future. Rome, EURAM.
Dunphy, D. C., Griffiths, A., & Benn, S. 2007. Organizational change for corporate sustainability: a guide for leaders and change agents of the future. (2nd ed.) Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, Routledge.
Elkington, J. 1998. Cannibals with forks: the triple bottom line of 21st century business. Gabriola Island, BC ; Stony Creek, CT, New Society Publishers.
Greenleaf, R. K. 1977. Servant leadership: a journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York, Paulist Press.
Johansen, R. 2009. Leaders make the future: ten new leadership skills for an uncertain world. San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Kets de Vries, M. F. R. 2003. Leaders, fools and imposters: essays on the psychology of leadership. (Rev ed.) New York, iUniverse Inc.
Kurtz, C. F. & Snowden, D. J. 2003. The new dynamics of strategy: sense-making in a complex and complicated world. IBM Systems Journal, 42(3), pp. 462 – 483.
Ladkin, D. 2010. What goes on in the relationship between leaders and followers? In, Rethinking leadership: a new look at old leadership questions, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 55-74.
Obolensky, N. 2010. Complex adaptive leadership: embracing paradox and uncertainty. Farnham, Gower.
Sendjaya, S., Sarros, J. C., & Santora, J. C. 2008. Defining and Measuring Servant Leadership Behaviour in Organizations. Journal of Management Studies, 45(2), pp. 402 – 24.
Spears, L. C. & Lawrence, M. 2002. Focus on leadership: servant-leadership for the twenty-first century. New York, J. Wiley & Sons.
Uhl-Bien, M., Marion, R., & McKelvey, B. 2007. Complexity Leadership Theory: Shifting leadership from the industrial age to the knowledge era. The Leadership Quarterly, 18(4), pp. 298-318.
Waldrop, M. M. 1992. Complexity: the emerging science at the edge of order and chaos. New York, Simon & Schuster.
Wood, J. 2003. Australia: an under performing knowledge nation? Journal of Intellectual Capital, 4(2), pp. 144 – 164.

Detail of The School of Athens

Plato and Aristotle. Image via Wikipedia

I’m concentrating on writing my research design chapter at the moment and so I am thinking about my philosophical disposition and how this notion is treated in theses.  No doubt it depends on the very things that make up the  philosophical disposition–the metatheories of epistemology, ontology and axiology– whether we 1) think about them at all, 2) understand them and claim them as our own, and 3) make these understandings explixit or keep them silent in the actual thesis.  In any event I figure if I’m doing a philosophy degree I should at least consider what this means.

While we can be plural and cross disciplinary in our theoretical frameworks, methodology and methods, I contend that it is impossible to be philosophically plural.  Our philosophical dispositions aren’t really choices in the same sense as choosing appropriate theory, methodology and methods for a particular piece of research, but rather are a statement of our understandings of  our way of knowing, our way of being and what we value.  It is therefore important to be clear and keep true to these dispositions in order to build a strong and authentic framework to make all the other decisions that need to occur in the conduct of research.

Whilst these insights about philosophy are all very well, they are not reason enough to be made explicit in the thesis.   The statements I make concerning my philosophical disposition will be included in my thesis to provide some background because I am positioning myself in the inquiry as one of the research instruments and therefore it is necessary to acknowledge “a critical self-awareness of [my] own subjectivity, vested interests, predilections and assumptions and to be conscious of how these might impact on the research process and findings” (Finlay 2008, p. 17).  They also influence the choices I have made to conduct a qualitative interpretive inquiry and so are explicated to locate my  philosophical, theoretical and methodological standpoints within the wider philosophical and research domains.

It will probably not surprise readers to learn that my philosophical disposition is one of an interpretivist epistemology, relativist ontology and values laden axiology.  Now that sounds easy enough, but it has taken me nearly three years to be able to say that out loud.  In fact, up until a month ago I thought my epistemological standpoint was constructivist!!

So how about you?  What is your philosophical disposition? Do you intend to write it in to your thesis and what are the reasons for this decision?

References

Finlay, L. 2008. A dance between the reduction and reflexivity: Explicating the “phenomenological psychological attitute”. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology,  39, pp. 1-32.

University of Genoa

Image via Wikipedia

Here is the abstract from a presentation I gave at the Tertiary Education Management Conference, Melbourne on October 6.

A transcript of this presentation can be found here.  Comments welcome.

Abstract

The title of this presentation borrows from the late C.K. Prahalad and his call for us to fundamentally rethink strategy and create radically new organizational capabilities; and his assertion that the appetite for this process of re-examining and reinventing will separate the builders (leaders) from caretakers (managers) and undertakers (cautious administrators).

Although only history can ultimately confirm this to be true, anecdotal evidence suggests that we are witnessing new times framed by the interrelationships between knowledge production as the main driver of growth and wealth creation, globalisation, massification and deepening concerns about our world’s environmental sustainability. These times of change and uncertainty call for different and deeper ways of thinking about our world and worldviews and our leadership practices.

We find ourselves in the second decade of the 21st century well and truly embedded in the knowledge era. Tertiary Education sector institutions are both sites of knowledge work and in the business of knowledge acquisition and dissemination and therefore can be seen as both drivers and vehicles of knowledge production, the main economic driver of growth in this knowledge-intensive era. Leading productively and promoting a culture of learning and performance is therefore vital to the sector and the society it serves.

Appropriate leadership for knowledge based enterprises has also changed but have we transformed as individuals and organisations? Are we being led by 19th century thinking from the industrial era depicted by heroic leadership and command and control practices? Or are we leading ourselves and our organisations in a way that incorporates the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that now mark our lives? More likely, as is the case with paradigmatic change, we are experiencing a mixture of both and that indeed the future is here; it’s just unevenly distributed!

This presentation will outline the emerging trends for leadership in the knowledge era and share preliminary results from an online survey of ATEM members that indicate whether or not leadership literacies appropriate for the knowledge era are being practiced in universities in Australia today.

Many agents acting in parallel

In celebration of this year’s World Day of Interconnectness (WDI), I have contributed a chapter to an e-book published to mark the occasion. The e-book can be downloaded from here. Please share the e-book and think about what ‘interconnectness’ means to you.

Other events scheduled for the WDI on 10.10.10 include a free leadership webinar 24 hour marathon and lots more at the WDI website.

WDI_ebook

Davis, H. 2010. Many agents acting in parallel: recognising patterns of interconnectness in leadership, learning and life, in, M. Carlton (ed). Exploring our world of interconnectness: in celebration of World Interconnectness Day 2010, Hamilton, NZ: Maruki Books, pp. 22-26.

Introduction

This chapter discusses the significance of interconnectness to leadership, learning and life in times signified by the convergence of the natural, social and economic worlds and where the principal means of production is knowledge.

Where a common metaphor for the industrial era was the machine, a recurring metaphor for the knowledge era is an ecological one. Metaphors emanate from mindsets appropriate for the times within which they were set. However, the speed of change experienced in the last 50 years has added to the complexity already associated with paradigmatic change leaving us with little space to process it. Within the contexts of globalization and sustainability, as with everyday life, this has allowed archaic patterns of thought, values and culture to linger and intermingle with those appropriate for the world we are now experiencing. The challenge for leadership, learning and life in the 21st century has never been greater.

Discussion

It’s time to stake a claim that relationship-based intangible attributes like interconnectedness are indeed central to leadership, learning and living harmoniously in the knowledge era. We urgently need to fix problems emanating from using 19th century thinking for 21st century issues. A worldview based on mechanistic, linear and rationalist thinking was fine for a 19th century industrial era but no longer serves the needs of a world where volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity mark the terrain. The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) is a consequence of applying old world thinking to 21st century problems. One simple way of shifting this balance is to speak up, speak out and join together. The annual World Day of Interconnectness is a vehicle to do just that.

Personally and collectively we can no longer condone a thinking that sees the world and world events as disparate, unrelated or ‘none of our concern’. We need look no further than the crumbling worldview of the economic rationalist to see that a rational, arms length, profits before all else approach is folly. It’s not working, it’s not healthy, it’s not fair and it’s costing us our planet.

Truth does not cease to exist just because it is being ignored. – John St. Augustine

We have an opportunity, post-GFC, to do things differently. The World Day of Interconnectness reminds us that we can all make a difference, that we all can and should take responsibility for our own actions and to join with others who seek sustainable and humane futures. It’s a reminder that we are of the world as well as in the world and that responsibility rests with all of us to improve the human and environmental condition.

Relationship-based attributes such as interconnectness are vital. Actually, relationships and intangible soft skills have always been important but they haven’t necessarily been privileged in the discourse of leadership or through the lens of globalisation based on neo-liberal/economic rationalist principles that has, up until recently, been the dominant paradigm.

As people become more mindful of their own actions and interactions, an expanded—and in some cases new—sense of interconnectness surfaces as we recognise and take up responsibility for how our actions impact on our lifeworlds. Paradoxically, the seemingly selfish act of spending time and energy reflectively seeking to know who we are often leads to growth—not contraction—of our sense of responsibility to others and the environment, allowing us to see the world as the interconnected whole that it has always been.

A knowledge-intensive era is very different from the industrial era where much of the current globalization, economic and leadership hegemony is drawn. Our world is now a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous place and it is far more fitting to think about harnessing the strength of this ‘messy’ world than to spend our energy trying to tame or order it. This calls for mindsets amenable to working with the ‘mess’ based on, for example, ecology, complex adaptive systems theory or quantum theory, rather than a Newtonian mechanistic and linear mindset grounded in stability that worked for the industrial era.

We are now witnessing a shift towards a third wave of globalisation that can be tracked directly to concerns for the world running deeper than economics, and the realisation that we actually live in a society not an economy. This new wave of globalisation is premised on the joining together of the sustainability (human and ecological) and economic discourses. Previous to this sustainability and the economy were at odds with each other and often in conflict.

The ecological metaphor is also an excellent guide for how we might expand our thinking to lead, learn and live productively in the knowledge era. This metaphor privileges the interconnected nature of our world as well as the deep interdependence between ourselves, the environment and the economy. An ecological model illustrates that there are no ‘externalities’ and that everything—including ecological and humane considerations—is in play and needs to be taken into account when determining economic value, costs, benefits and policies.

In a knowledge-intensive economy leaders have a particular set of literacies to absorb and these are very different to those needed in the command and control doctrine of the industrial era. Leadership literacies for the knowledge era focus on people-centred attributes and encourage leaders to see themselves as teachers, enablers and stewards who encourage commitment and responsibility in themselves and their followers. They also need to tap into intangible qualities like trust, values and commitment. In order to be leadership literate for the knowledge era leaders must develop a deep understanding of themselves and their world. Leaders will have an awareness of and responsibility for the interconnected world of the enterprise to its stakeholders and the environment. Leaders also need to be able to surface underlying values, assumptions and ideologies that are in play in order to understand how leadership practices effect production in a knowledge-intensive economy.

Importantly, an ecological model can also encourage us to think about working with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, rather than against it. Indeed there is a growing interest in combining design science and humane leadership principles based on knowing ourselves well, which in turn expands our notion of interconnectness. An example can be seen in the work of Johansen[1]:

Leaders must learn how to make the future in the midst of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. We need not passively accept the future. Leaders can and must make a better future.

Leaders in the future will need to have vision, understanding, clarity and agility. The negative aspects of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity) can be turned around by following these principles:

  • Volatility yields to vision
  • Uncertainty yields to understanding
  • Complexity yields to clarity
  • Ambiguity yields to agility.

As we become more mindful of and take responsibility for our own actions and interactions, an expanded—and in some cases new—sense of interconnectness surfaces. This paradox helps to explain the notion of interrelatedness, this intangible leadership attribute so important for the knowledge era. To comprehend the paradox is to recognize that before we can truly understand our interdependence with others—people and the environment—we must first know ourselves in a way that transcends our own ego and in a way that is not fearful of difference and diversity of viewpoints, as Gandhi reminds us:

You and I are the same thing. I cannot hurt you without harming myself – Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Another connection between a strengthened sense of interconnectness and the benefit of knowing ourselves more clearly is a deeper understanding of our own values. This knowledge helps us in our day to day interactions with our colleagues and our wider communities where virtual and real communities of practice may emerge based on comparable interests and values sets. In addition, our values are a mediator of the messy and unknowable world we experience every day.A

Conclusion

This chapter discussed the significance of interconnectness to leadership, learning and life in an environment signified by the convergence of the natural, social and economic worlds and where the principal means of production is knowledge. It outlined the paradigmatic shifts occurring in society framed by the interrelationships between knowledge production as the main driver of growth and wealth creation, globalisation and deepening concerns about our world’s environmental sustainability.

It called for recognition of the interdependence and interconnectedness of leadership, learning, and life by seeing the world as the interconnected whole that it has always been. Interconnectness and other relationship- based attributes were discussed and positioned as appropriate leadership literacies for times epitomized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

Borrowing from Complex Adaptive Systems theory this chapter also reminds us that there are always many agents acting in parallel—whether we realise this or not—and confirmed the significance of action and activities like the annual World Day of Interconnectness, to our unfolding understanding of our world.

[1] Johansen, R. 2009. Leaders make the future: ten new leadership skills for an uncertain world. San Francisco, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Heather Davis

Heather is in the final stages of a PhD study identifying appropriate leadership literacies for the knowledge era and testing them in the higher education sector in Australia. The theme of interconnectness resonates very well with her studies and outlook on life. Heather makes good use of Web 2.0 technologies to share her research experiences, including a blog at https://leadershipliteracies.wordpress.com.

This is the second year that Heather has contributed to World Day of Interconnectness activities. Last year she hosted a webinar “Small ‘l’ leadership: taking leadership personally” as part of the Leaders Café Foundation’s contribution of free leadership webinars.

Heather lives in Torquay, Australia, with her partner Philip and has two adult children, Ashleah and Rohan, who live nearby.

Social media and my PhD

Britain Going Blog Crazy - Metro Article

Image by Annie Mole via Flickr

This post was first published as a guest post on thethesiswhisperer, on 31-Aug-10 and was mentioned in this article in The Age on 9-Aug-11.

In this post I want to reflect on the value of using social media and what it might have to offer research students. As a full time PhD student investigating a messy phenomenon in real time–leadership literacies for the knowledge era–I made a conscious decision to be an active learner, to learn by doing and learn by connecting with people as well as through the literature.  I had always been a reflexive practitioner and wanted to also be a reflexive researcher.

The ‘learning by doing’ part began by mapping out conferences where I could present drafts of my work. I wrote abstracts about what I needed to develop arguments for.  I thought that there would be no better way to focus the mind than presenting on that topic in 3 or 6 months time!  Yes, it might be the ‘extreme sport’ end of PhD comportment, but it did work for me.

The risks associated with presenting work that is not ‘perfect’ and still in development have to be considered, but the benefits of receiving timely and valuable feedback really helped me with my work.  The ‘connecting with people’ part occurred at these conferences, where I met theorists in the field (yes they are human beings!) and people with aligned interests.

The ‘connecting with people’ part was also met by the interactions with the social networks I’ve built up using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and to a lesser extent Academia.net.  The sharing of ideas and resources has been a two way thing and even though most of what I’ve learned through these networks will not go into the thesis, they have been invaluable as an action learning tool to pick up on trends, test ideas and to get a feel for what is emerging or fading.  This has helped strengthen the research instrument that is ‘me’.

The reflexive researcher part was taken up with the blog where I have written a lot about my struggles with ‘text work as identity work’ (For more see Kamler and Thomson’s book “Helping Doctoral Students to Write). I started my blog in November 2008, inspired by a  Professor at RMIT,  Brian Corbitt, telling a story about Germaine Greer writing “The Female Eunuch” from her collection of vignettes.

A vignette is a small piece of writing which tries to encapsulate a story or a moment of insight in a stand- alone piece. The beauty of a vignette is you don’t have to try to connect with other ideas.  This is opposite to how one might normally think about a thesis, which is meant to be a long, densely inter-related document. The vignette approach seemed a compelling idea, and one that I reflected on for a few months as I pondered just how I was going to become a writer, specifically how I was going to write A LOT.

I thought that blogging might be the modern day equivalent of Greer’s vignette approach. Brian was quite pleased that he had inspired such endeavours and, in typical professorial fashion, suggested that there could be a paper on ‘blogging as a research method’ in it! I have yet to write that paper, mainly because I don’t feel like I am leading that charge, unlike Lila Efimova whose blog and PhD studies are well documented at Mathemagenic and widely cited.

My blogs were written when I needed to think and reflect and this seemed to be in the period leading up to the confirmation and when designing the research.  I am currently using these blogs–these placeholders of my thoughts–as I draft my thesis chapters.

I remember commenting to my supervisor at one low point that I couldn’t write anything, not even a blog posting.  I was expecting a blast for being a terrible PhD student but reassuringly Sandra mused that perhaps I didn’t have anything to write because the issues, for now, were sorted.  Instead, perhaps, this marked the shift to a new stage of the PhD–a ‘doing the research’ stage, rather than ‘thinking about the research’ stage.  That was indeed an ‘aha’ moment for me and it is true that I didn’t feel the need to write many postings while I was ‘doing the research’ but now that I am back into writing and analysing I think that the need to blog will be more frequent.

A blog can be an archive of reflections about what it means to do a PhD. It can be a placeholder for the vignettes that build to become arguments in the thesis and, unlike a personal journal, the thoughts and arguments are open for scrutiny and feedback.

Blogs about the PhD journey–like thethesiswhisperer and by individuals–remove the veils of mystique that mask the hard work.  It shows us the ‘invisible work’ which never makes it into ink in the final thesis document.  A blog does not a PhD make, but a blog can help develop the necessary confidence to become ‘writerly’ which is necessary to tackle the thesis itself.

C.K Prahalad

Image by Nestlé via Flickr

Vale C.K. Prahalad (1941-2010)

What a loss to the fields of leadership and management, and to us all.

An excerpt from his foreword to “The Boundaryless Organization

In the new business environment, managers must fundamentally rethink strategy and create radically new organizational capabilities. Both tasks require a capacity to forget as well as a capacity to learn; they require tools for honest assessment of where one is and a capacity to conceive where one ought to be . . . It is the appetite for this process of reexamining and reinventing that will separate the builders (leaders) from caretakers and the undertakers (managers and cautious administrators).

More on CKP here.

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