Archive for the 'The Faculty' Category

The Ancient Chinese Science of Organisational Transformation

by LeaderShape Faculty Member, Maiqi Ma

China Business

‘IF A GOVERNMENT becomes unpopular, neither good nor bad policies would be welcomed.’ The words illustrate how the Chinese people value the trustworthiness of leaders and remind me of the so-called ‘Tacitus Trap’ (referring to the Roman philosopher), who asks:

Why are efforts to change such hard work? And, why is changing mind-sets and behaviours hard work too?

Employees who are asked report that their companies’ initiatives most often reinforce changes through formal mechanisms; role modelling is used least often.

I am not surprised. My diagnosis is that these companies lack a culture based in human relations. I would provide a prescription to the leaders derived from the ancient Chinese science of organisational transformation: ‘Letting your people understand the reasons, moving them on with affection, guiding them through self modelling and having an attractive benefits package.’ The prerequisite for these principles is… that the leaders should be virtuous!

This is the beginning of a journey to grow future leaders and develop teams that can speak the same leadership language. Why not take a look here?

According to the ‘Doctrine of Confucius and Mencius’, a virtuous leader should meet three conditions. Firstly, (s)he should let his people have a ‘certain livelihood’. My interpretation of ‘certain livelihood’ for nowadays is a ‘fair salary’ and most definitely not the ‘zero hours contract’ model. (One complaint I heard from a small company is that the business owner’s wife did very little work, never appeared in the office and yet had a much higher salary than the full-time staff.)

Secondly, they should teach people, not only about knowledge and skills but, more importantly, human relations. For example there should be a sense of righteousness between bosses and managers; between senior and junior levels, a proper order…The core of all relations is mutual respect and differentiation. Mencius says that ‘when the prince regards his ministers as his hands and feet, his ministers regard their prince as their stomach and heart; … when he regards them as the ground or as grass, they regard him as a robber and an enemy.’

Qing_Dynasty_Chess_pawnsI have heard many middle managers say that they are treated like pawns in a game of chess by their bosses. In many organisations, the bosses often seem to regard the shareholders as the most important associates, while staff are least important. At employee level, the attitude is often ‘this is not my business. I don’t care.’

Another complaint I have heard from some renowned companies is that frontline staff’s basic wages are the same regardless of individual levels of education and length of service. This is a source of irritation for the senior staff and results in a high turnover of employees. They feel that their expertise and loyalty are overlooked.

Third and last, the leader should ensure there is a wide sense of shared pleasure. I was once having lunch with a senior manager of one of the top 100 companies. He introduced a mini golf game right there in the staff canteen and said to me: ‘If you like, you can take a golf ball home. Our boss likes golf.’ I was impressed by his pride, but I did not take a golf ball with me!

Confucius says that virtue is like the North Pole star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it. Mencius comments ‘when one by force subdues men, they do not submit to him in their hearts…when one subdues men by virtue, they are pleased deep in their hearts and will submit with sincerity.’ So, it is much better to say ‘What can I learn in order to influence or persuade my people to change?’ rather than ‘Changing mind-sets and behaviours is hard work.’


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Go East Young (Wo)Man – to India

I have just returned from Mumbai after an inspiring week meeting with senior business leaders at a conference on ‘Success through Corporate Sustainability’.

In contrast to the UK, Europe and the US, India is optimistic and there is a real buzz where their business people see a huge opportunity for growth. What is most noteworthy though amongst the business people I met is the importance they are putting on ‘the community’. They understand that sustainable growth in India depends on them sorting out the problems of the community where they are active.

Continue reading ‘Go East Young (Wo)Man – to India’

Values = Personal Conscience + Self Determination

Two insights came today while in Mumbai.

I was given a book by Anant Nadkarni (my friend from Tata who is VP for Group Corporate Sustainability) called ‘Power & Love’ by Adam Kahane and later he talked about ‘Integrity and Courage’ as someone’s definition of good leadership.

1st insight is described in the blog; Teachers vs Learners.

The 2nd insight was that these pairs of words offered by Anant fit like a glove with our Transpersonal Leadership definition of Values (as defined in our 8ICOL model) which are broken down into Personal Conscience and Self Determination. Love and Integrity fit into the Personal conscience space whereas Power and Courage are Self Determination characteristics.

So to describe a leader, you do need to have both elements: “Who I am” and “What I am going to do with it”.

John Knights

Teaching vs Learning – not necessarily connected

Two insights came today while in Mumbai.

I was given a book by Anant Nadkarni (my friend from Tata who is VP for Group Corporate Sustainability) called ‘Power & Love’ by Adam Kahane.

The first insight had no direct connection to the topic but was the tangential realisation when given the book that in the debate about enabling people to learn rather than just teaching (transferring knowledge), Teacher is the grammatical ‘subject’ whereas Learner is the ‘object’. We are familiar with the simple description that ‘Teachers teach students’ – basically they tell you stuff, but we have no equivalent concise phrase for who does what with Learners. ‘Enablers enable Learners’, maybe? It doesn’t exactly cascade off the tongue does it? ‘Enablers learn Learners’ would be a new way of saying it where the verb describes the object rather than the subject – if it didn’t sound so uneducated! You see, the ‘teachers’ have basically got it all sown up.

And that is a problem for those of us who believe enabling learners is the most effective way of educating, ie. ‘pull rather than push’. There seems to be no concise acceptable way to describe it. Any ideas?

John Knights

Celebrity Leadership – What do Steve Jobs, Martin Johnson and John Terry have in common?

Part 1: Steve Jobs
More Catch up in my hotel room in Mumbai – can’t sleep.
They all got to the top!! A basic problem is that we humans need very different behaviours, characteristics and conscience to have the talent to get to the top compared with being a great leader once at the top. And no theory has come close to working out how we get the right people to the top!
I don’t know Steve, Martin (England Rugby Team Manager) or John (England Football Captain) personally or their organisations intimately so my views are my intuition from which I will try to eliminate bias and prejudice.

Continue reading ‘Celebrity Leadership – What do Steve Jobs, Martin Johnson and John Terry have in common?’