Why we need to update leadership, and how to do so

Screen-Shot-2015-09-29-at-22.30.23Yesterday Umair Haque used the examples of Volkswagen and the pope to discuss leadership.

Ranked one of the top 50 management thinkers in the world he bluntly titled his commentary, “Why Everything You Know About Leadership is Wrong“.

“The world,” he wrote, “is crying out for (real) leadership. Whether it’s Trump, Sanders, or Corbyn a curious phenomenon is sweeping the globe. People are rejecting the heads of traditional institutions.”


“The world is beset with truly great problems: climate change, inequality, debt, fracturing nations, and stagnation, to name just a few. And these problems are so different from yesterday’s that we haven’t really updated leadership itself to be able to even fully grapple with them.”

So what would real leadership look like?

“The highest leadership is about ‘why’, not just ‘how’ or ‘what’… [It] isn’t just about ‘having morals’. It’s about offering people a moral compass by which they can find the true north of a life well lived, in the dark night of every being’s struggle to flourish.”

This is how he sees the pope’s leadership. But leaders at Volkswagen, by contrast, have shown themselves to be merely good at ‘counting beans’.

“Leadership — real leadership — is more than frowning and counting beans more accurately than the next guy. It’s questioning why we’re counting the beans, what the beans mean, where they came from, and where they’re taking us in the first place.”

“The truest leaders help people find a way home.”

And who are these leaders? Why us, of course!

“[If] we rise to the challenge of moral leadership, in a world parched for it, then we are what we have been searching for all along. Ourselves. And that is the truest miracle of all… For the truth is that each and every one of us was put here to be a leader, in our own lives, in ways tiny and small.”

The Churning agrees. Except that we were also put here to be leaders large and great. And The Churning provides us with a methodology for achieving this:

— Inner leadership provides a straightforward set of tools for finding our own ‘moral’ leadership and deciding where and how we want to apply it.

— Outer leadership shows us how to use our organisations to achieve the visions created by those leaders, and at the same time to create a new kind of organisation, which operates and adapts as a living, evolving organism.

Together, in a time of churning, inner and outer leadership bring inspiration and results.

Chapter 5 of Inner Leadership shows how to identify your purpose and values. Knowing these provides the ‘moral compass’ that lets you know what to focus on, what to ignore, and how to behave in the world.

With so many issues to address, how do we decide what to work on? Start from where you are now, and head towards where you want to be. Chapter 3 shows how to find the opportunities in the situation you currently face. Chapter 4 provides tools for working out where you want to get to, and choosing the opportunity that is best for taking you there.

Chapter 6 shows how to convert that choice into an inspiring vision. Chapter 7 shows how to prepare for the implementation of outer leadership.

It also describes how combining inner and outer leadership brings the opportunity to create ‘antifragile’ leaders and organisations: people and teams that know how to see the challenges of this time of churning not as ‘problems’ but as opportunities: opportunities to update and reinforce the purpose and values they aspire to, and to improve their ability to achieve them.

Image source: British Library collection

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *