Dawn Mist In The Surrey Hills

The “rules” for business are well established; efficiency, productivity, control, certainty, the list goes on. The qualities are repeated daily in the business press, lauded by politicians, and woven into the curricula of business schools.

The theme that weaves them together is a desire for predictability. For most of us (and particularly for those of us here in the UK) that’s a commodity in short supply right now.

Despite that, we pursue them. Confirmation bias will have its way. They have become, in many ways archetypes, and like all archetypes, we mostly forget that they’re there (or that other archetypes are available.)

Every archetype has it shadow; its “dark side”

  • for efficiency, it’s lack of flexibility
  • for control, it’s lack of creativity and engagement
  • for certainty, it’s risk aversion and timidity
  • for productivity, it’s stasis

The dark side of management is pallid leadership. Managers have to do, leaders need to “be” – they are the lodestone of the meaning and purpose that determines the energy levels , clarity and direction of the organisation.

We are in a very different environment to even a few years ago, and we need to recognise what is emerging. “Black Swans” – those low probability/high impact events that disrupt our lives are visiting more and more often, and our dominant business cultures are not adapting quickly enough, and the pathologies they are developing are strangling them. (see an excellent article by Leandro Herrero here)

It’s time for new mantras. Not just agility as currently understood, but agility at depth (another great article, this one by Kristopher Floyd describes it beautifully) as well as “anti fragility

We are living in business world of shadows, and it will require great leaders, driven by purpose and meaning, to help us adapt.

They are more likely to be found in smaller businesses, those who can not only understand, but have the authority to implement, and who can cast light on the shadows that constrain their larger brethren,

As Marshall Goldsmith observed; What got us here, won’t get us there.

We need business leaders who are up for it.


2 responses to “Shadows”

  1. Excellent post Richard. This creates an impression of a tension between the archetype and the shadow that is to be expected and also understood in order to allow the right actions to be taken.


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