I had a very instructive meeting with a senior health professional yesterday (work – not the annual check-up).
We were discussing local leadership on health issues and he mentioned a presentation [pdf] that he’d seen by Prof Keith Grint on three different kinds of leadership – the type needed in a crisis (a ‘commander’), in the case of a ‘tame problem’ (a manager – following standard operating procedures), and then the question of what to do in the case of a wicked problem to which there’s no obvious solution – where leadership really comes into its own.
I mention this for two reasons:
Firstly, because the outline of leadership that is described in this presentation is very close to the kind I’ve been outlining here in the leadership blogging series – one that places a premium on recognising the limits of tame (in-house) experts and expertise in favour of a more uncertain conversational polity in which questions are asked widely and freely.
As I’ve argued here, certainty is, in itself, not conversational – and conversationality (if there is such a word) is something that is a good thing to strive for from a strategic point of view. This is, of course, a real problem for Politicians – saying “I’ve never seen this problem before; I need to get a collective view on what to do about this” – as Grint illustrates with George W. Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina.
Secondly, because it concludes with a fantastic quote that just begged to be thrown out onto Twitter:
"Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them." Laurence J. Peter