Faculty publications: Inspiring Leadership

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This month’s faculty publications spotlight is on Inspiring Leadership—Becoming a dynamic and engaging leader by members of Hult faculty teaching at Ashridge Executive Education.

A note from the editors

With multiple contributors from among the Ashridge faculty and adjunct community, and edited by Dr. Kerrie Fleming and Roger Delves, Inspiring Leadership showcases the best of leadership development practice and the most effective leadership styles that have evolved in recent years or are currently gaining attention.

Enhanced by a perspective and vision of the types of leaders and leadership skills that will be needed to meet future global demand, the book has three distinctive characteristics:

  • it helps leaders to translate the latest thinking and offers a simple way of applying this to their current role
  • it offers leaders a means by which to develop themselves and their teams, while assessing how their organization may need to evolve in the changing business environment around them
  • it offers a diverse view of leadership perspectives from which readers can choose in order to enhance their own leadership style and practice.

By mapping out the context of the past, present and future of leadership—including a focus on values—Inspiring Leadership looks at developing authenticity and using emotional intelligence to better cultivate a high level of self-awareness in any leader. The book offers invaluable insights on how best to ‘practice’ leadership using the techniques and leadership perspectives that are most commonly used in business school interventions around the world.

 

Book excerpt: From the Introduction

Leadership wisdom
We want to help practitioners to understand why and how understanding material such as the subject matter captured here really can help to make better, wiser decisions. Whether you are personally a leader or not, you will have observed leaders and been led by them. You will know that leaders think, reflect and then make decisions. What they choose to consider in that process, the things on which they choose to reflect, colour their entire modus operandi. Few would dispute that when it comes to the evaluation of leaders and leadership success, it is the quality of decision-making that often distinguishes the superb from the merely adequate – and as leaders there seems little doubt in the face of the empirical evidence that we are judged by the quality of our decisions and our actions and by the results that arise from those decisions. Our decisions become our legacy.

So, decision-making in the world of the leader is freighted with a special significance, because so often what hangs on the decision can be life changing or career threatening. Regularly making high-quality decisions is one of the hallmarks of great leaders. How do the good ones get it right so often, and what happens when they get it wrong? What can we learn from the decision-making approach of these explorers and adventurers in the VUCA landscape within which we must all now and for the foreseeable future survive and attempt to thrive? How can those of us who know, feel or fear that our decision making is not our strongest suit learn from the success of others? Let us remind ourselves of the VUCA acronym. A VUCA environment is one which is said to be volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. In today’s often malign and hostile business environment, some of these variables are often in play – but when an environment boasts all four, then the pressures on leaders and on those who follow them mount alarmingly fast. Mergers can create VUCA environments, as can regime change or the demand for such change; significant shifts in legislation can do so, or the social pressure to generate such shifts. Whatever the cause, the effects of VUCA environments are often calamitous.

For many parents, one of the joys of having young children is being able to read aloud to them. Today’s parents are particularly fortunate as their enjoyment of this pastime coincided with the popularity of the Harry Potter adventures from J. K. Rowling. Many a dad or mum must have read the whole impressive canon aloud, from start to finish, and then wallowed in the glorious films. So it is perhaps no surprise that many an adult swears by that great modern philosopher, Professor Albus Dumbledore. In The Philosopher’s Stone, Rowling has him suggest, in conversation with Harry, that it is by our actions and not our intentions that others judge us – for as Dumbledore points out, we all have good intentions. This goes to the heart of what decision making is about: what we do is a function of what we decide, and it seems to us that for leaders and managers, the actions by which we are most judged are our decisions and the things that happen as a result of those decisions.

Barbara Killinger, in her book Integrity, quotes W. H. Auden: ‘Nobody can honestly think of himself as a strong character because, however successful he may be in overcoming them, he is necessarily aware of the doubts and temptations that accompany every important choice.’ As leaders, we think, we consider, we evaluate and then we decide – and those things which we choose to weigh in the balance before we make a decision offer insights into our integrity. To paraphrase the language both of authenticity and of Ego and Eco Intelligence, do we think selfishly or selflessly? Do we think of the short term or the long term? Do we make contingent decisions which reflect the situation in which we believe we find ourselves, or do we only make decisions which are congruent with our inner world of values or with the values of the organization we represent or even which are aligned with the regulations which are set in place to guide or manage our actions? Do we, however much we intend to do otherwise, weigh the wrong things in the balance, or evaluate them poorly – and do we as a result make poor decisions or decisions which to others appear illogical or unsupportable? Do our decisions lead to actions and outcomes of which we are less than proud? Do we sometimes look back, reflect, regret, and wish we could be judged on our intentions and not on our actions? Yet as Dumbledore also said, in that same book, ‘It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.’ Whatever decisions we make, whatever the consequences, we cannot forget to live. But how much better would it be to live with pride in our own integrity, knowing that the decisions we make are at the very least ones which show an understanding of what is right and what is wrong, and the courage to choose the option which is appropriate?

Excerpted from Inspiring Leadership, edited by Kerrie Fleming and Roger Delves, published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. Purchase a copy here.


About the editors
Dr. Kerrie Fleming is Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior and is Research Lead for Transforming Behaviors; she works on Custom, Open and Qualifications programs at Ashridge Executive Education. Roger Delves is Dean of Qualifications and a Professor of Practice specializing in leadership. He works on degree programs across both Hult and Ashridge. Together they co-designed and taught the Personal Impact module on the Ashridge MBA, while Roger is a designer of the Leading with Personal Impact module of the Hult EMBA, which he taught in London and Shanghai. He is a past Hult Professor of the Year winner who has taught for Hult across several programs and in several campuses. Kerrie recently published a book on emotional intelligence entitled Emotional Agility while Roger has one due in the fall called Branded Britain.

 

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