Yesterday, I spent a couple of very enjoyable hours at the RSA in London talking with Pete Burden. In a post entitled, “Understanding leadership and management differently” he had been fulsome in his support of my “10 much-needed shifts in the way that we understand and talk about leadership”. In light of this, we were knocking around a few thoughts on how such shifts in the patterns of people’s understanding might come to be adopted more widely – especially given the pressures on managers to account for their practice in terms that reflect the dominant management discourse.
Like the photographs in magazines that present an impossibly perfect impression of the human form, this airbrushed view of organization bears little resemblance to managers’ everyday lived reality. Yet it persists. Judging by many of the most popular posts in LinkedIn Pulse and elsewhere, there is little sign of this changing anytime soon. As Pete suggested in his later post, “Facing the Fear?”, the thought of ‘not knowing’ (or, perhaps, being seen not to know) tethers managers to the language and assumptions of certainty, predictability, and control. This then perpetuates the myth, which continues to contaminate their own and others’ practice.