Category Archives: Leadership

Leading From Anywhere

I’m currently developing some work with Richard Martin, which is giving us cause to examine what leadership is, and how it differs from management. Richard has articulated something helpful which I’d like to share with you.

Leadership can come from anywhere and anyone, whereas management is usually an assigned role. Or put another way:

Leadership: Articulating a vision, setting strategy, inspiring others. Qualitative and outcome-oriented. Whole system.

Management: Focus on delivery, and the organisational and resourcing elements that enable it. Quantitative and output-oriented. Measurement and process.

When I was sketching out the current version of Principles of Work, I got stuck thinking about a suitable image to represent ‘Lead by Example’. Carole suggested I Google ‘leadership’ for some inspiration, so I did, and here’s some of what I found.

Leadership Google Search 1

What an underwhelming response. I kept scrolling and things didn’t get any better.

Leadership Google Search 2

Image after image of anonymous bubble shaped cartoon men pointing, conducting, megaphoning, and striding forth with their legions of dutiful followers. This is not the leadership I’m looking for, and it certainly doesn’t fit with the idea that leadership can come from anywhere and anyone.

I diversified my thinking, starting to include other words into my searches, and I discovered some images of aerobatic display teams at work. I was struck by the many formations these teams adopt, and how frequently, there is no single leader out in front.

Lead by Example copy

I chose this formation to demonstrate leading by example. It speaks to me of trust, and of the possibility that leadership can come into play from any position on the team. As we look at the formation here, it may be that the leader is sitting in the plane at the back – the only position where this whole formation can be viewed from. And as the group switches places, the role of leader can shift too.

How do you define leadership – and what images does it conjure up for you? Let me know your thoughts and I’ll see if I can draw something for you.

Creative Leadership – Essential Reading #4

Reminder: This is a short series of book reviews. The four books in this review series are all about creativity, love, art and leadership (at least that’s what they inspire in me). Separately – each one is a super read. Together – they make up the motherlode. If you are looking for insight and inspiration, I strongly recommend you acquire, and read all four. I’m reviewing the four books in the order they came to me.

Creative Leadership - Essential Reading

First up was 101 Things to Learn in Art School by Kit White – a gift to me from the lovely Carole.

Next came The Year Without Pants by Scott Berkun – a recommendation to me from the lovely Heather.

The third book is Steal Like An Artist – by Austin Kleon.

The fourth and final book in this wonderful quartet is Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace. This book was a gift to me from Neil Morrison.

Creativity Inc. is a really well written story about how Pixar came into being, and at first survived, then thrived. The book is shot through with references to many of the famous films that Pixar has produced, which lends the story an engaging familiarity, and it’s the observations about how to get good work done that really resonate most for me.

There are some excellent ‘Proceed Until Apprehended’ type approaches to problem solving.

‘If we allow more people to solve problems without permission and if we tolerate (and don’t vilify) their mistakes, then we enable a much larger set of problems to be addressed.’

I also really enjoyed reading about people, particularly senior management, getting familiar with  the notion that many opportunities and problems are beyond their sight. Getting over yourself and getting comfortable with cooperating and collaborating are essential requirements for a thriving business.

‘I’m an advocate for humility in leaders. But to be truly humble, those leaders must first understand how many of the factors that shape their lives and their businesses are – and will always be – out of sight.’

There’s a fantastic, brief section at the end of the book with loads of snippets and hints, reminders about what good work looks and feels like. When I first spotted this – I read it and wondered if doing so might somehow negate the need to go through the whole book. In fact – reading the snippets first just served to make me more interested in the whole story.

Indiviadually, each of these four books will enhance your approach to cocreating great work. Together – I think they really are an excellent mix of creativity and leadership. Essential reading.

People and Places : Senses and Spaces

We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us. Winston Churchill

This week I learned of a collaboration between BIFM and the CIPD. Although in its very early days, the potential in this match up interests me. The plan is for the two organisations to collaborate on ‘a number of research and insight projects that will investigate how both communities of professionals are evolving and adapting to the changing workplace.’ So long as that work feeds quickly through into action and doesn’t become just another talking shop (lest we forget I still wear the scars of being heavily involved in Engage for Success, I know how underwhelming these well meaning get togethers can be), then I look forward to being of some use to this initiative. Here are a couple of interactions I was involved with on Twitter as the news emerged.

BIFM CIPD Collaboration Tweets Two BIFM CIPD Collaboration Tweets One

Good architecture is often invisible, but it allows whatever is happening in that space to be the best experience possible. Pezo von Ellrichshausen

Peter Cheese said he’d like my thoughts on this matter, so I’d like to follow up on his tweeted observation about making good practice common practice, by sharing a few examples of where I believe these connections are already being made. I’d also be really interested to learn of other examples you’ve seen too, please? Feel free to drop me a line via the comments on the blog.

Neil Usher

Neil is for me, a great example of people and place personified. I don’t mean he looks like an office block, but he gets this important connection. I first met Neil at ConnectingHR a few years ago and he is regularly blogging, thinking and working at the crossroads between people and places : senses and spaces. Neil twists the two marshmallow strands of people and place together into an almost perfectly formed Flump. Here’s a recent, excellent post of his about how to help people and places work better.

Social Capital in the Workplace

In january 2014 I was fortunate to be asked by Mark Catchlove (another great example of someone who ‘gets’ this and is doing good work in the people and places space) of Herman Miller, to facilitate a consultation on Social Capital in the Workplace at St George’s House within the walls of Windsor Castle. This was a fascinating conversation among a mix of people across a wide range of industries and disciplines. We talked about people and places, senses and spaces. A detailed report of the conversation has been published here. The same group is reconvening again very soon to share our experiences since the initial conversation in January. What have we learned, what have we done? Doubtless more to follow.

In a city the atmosphere is all around you and is ever changing. New things will become old things…Time is a great architect. Alvaro Siza

People Property and CSR

I previously worked with a client in a financial services firm. She was the Director of People, Property and CSR and did a great job of coordinating these important, related activities. This person would always consider the people aspects of property moves and changes, and vice versa. Breaking down silos was a hobby of hers, and walls would regularly be knocked down and moved as attempts were made to foster a more collaborative way of working. And she would regularly invite contributions and criticism from colleagues around the business related to planned work. Why wouldn’t she – after all, getting this stuff right was the responsibility of her and her team!

Sensing Spaces

In February I wrote a blog post titled Mood Lighting. It was about a trip I took with Mervyn Dinnen to visit the Sensing Spaces exhibition at the Royal Academy. After our visit, as we spoke about the exhibition, Mervyn told me that one of the biggest impacts he observed while walking around, was how the mood of our conversation altered depending on the space we occupied. This exhibition was an enjoyable and interesting look at the impact space has on your senses. If the art world can explore the possibilities, then why can’t more of us in business do likewise?

Allowing room for the visitor’s imagination is essential if a space is to become a satisfying physical experience. Li Xiaodong

I’d like to wish good luck to the bridge builders at BIFM and CIPD. I have a slight reservation about building bridges, and that is that when we do this, the bridges typically connect one place to another. For this collaboration to work, I expect it will need to connect many people to many people, and many spaces to many spaces. For me, these connections already exist. They may not yet be strong enough, and there may not be enough of them, but they are out there.

People and Places : Sensing Spaces.

Here’s a related post about next steps, just published by Simon Heath.