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Ocean’s Eleven & Shared Leadership – Paradox and Possibility?


“No more heroes anymore . . . “

This week I read a Forbes article on the intriguing topic of “shared leadership”. There is a link to the article at the end of this note.

The process of turning an idea into reality requires more than vision.

It involves steadfast determination, organisation, communication, collaboration, luck and a lot of hard work.

But that doesn’t mean that positive thinking or even reflection is meaningless. Apparently, musing about the type of leader that you want to be can enhance your ability to realize your potential.

Throughout history, literature has attributed heroic traits to leaders, but maybe that was all fantasy even then! 

What is the leadership style that is best suited to our world today?

Back in 1924, Mary Parker Follett argued that “leadership is not defined by the exercise of power but by the capacity to increase the sense of power among those led”. In 2021, success may well depend on collaboration among multiple, dispersed, specialized contributors and teams.

The new leadership depends less on the heroic actions of a few individuals at the top and more on interdependent, coordinated initiatives distributed throughout an organization. 

Many teams involved in complex knowledge-work operate like a heist team. Think Ocean’s 11. To crack the vault, you need a mastermind, smooth talker, contortionist, safe cracker, getaway driver, and six more specialists. Each of them must be a master at their craft.

It all makes sense in the abstract, but it’s paradoxical, don’t you think? How do you actually make this work in the real world of priorities, commitments, constraints, issues, customer demands, all while working from home?

I am an occasional student of the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, another paradoxical character. But the paradox of leadership is encapsulated beautifully by the words of another ancient Chinese philosopher and writer,  Lao Tzu, reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, and founder of Taoism.

Not bad for a days work in 6th century BC!

You can read the brief Forbes article here , including Lao Tzu’s observations on leadership . . . It won’t make you a better leader or a better person, but some quiet thought on our aspirations, expectations, strengths and weaknesses is a good start.

Time for some reflection, I think!