Modern Management and Leadership

By Shawn P. Quigley

There are a lot of new management and leadership jargon out there and perhaps it has always been so. Why? Did the roles of a leader and/or manager change? What did we do before and why does that no longer apply? Yes, the roles of the leader have changed; many people have been trying to define what makes a good leader so they can sell it to everyone. However, we all know that even if you do what a good leader did in one situation it may not work due to the situations and the people being different.

It can be argued that work has gotten more complicated. We have distributed our organization’s activities all over the world and that requires more coordination. The rate of change is great; just consider Moore’s Law that postulates the rate of increase in the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubling less than every two years. Finding one person with all of the requisite knowledge to be successful in the face of such complexity is rare and perhaps is not possible. Enter the learning organization.

The Learning Organization

Let us start with the term Learning Organization. The basic tenet of this “new” way of thinking is to be open minded and overcome ones mental models which can actually be obstacles that restrict our thinking differently. Well, why would I change how I think? Was I not open-minded when I started, what has changed, and why did it; I, change? Sometime you will find that time; what helps your experience, has blocked our view of new ideas and new possibilities. We may find that we have become creatures of habit and not willing to alter our perspective in accordance with the new reality presented. Why would time and experience impact or affect us this way? We are the product of our experiences, the good and the bad. When the situation looks familiar, we will instinctively jump to conclusions based upon those previous experiences. In the olden days this pattern recognition and ability to see the outcome quickly based upon the past was instrumental to survival – it kept you from being eaten by an animal. Now days this quick jump to conclusion can be a liability. Pattern and outcome variation are more difficult to ascertain or discern. Whereas pattern recognition can be helpful for trend analysis, it is only a small part of what an individual should use to assess the path forward.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

It would seem that it would actually help us keep an open mind if your organization was truly that way to start with or we really desired to keep learning rather than rest upon our biases from our past. Most of us are not driven to constantly improve our thinking or the way we work as we age. This would seem contrary to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but for most of us we find obtaining the pinnacle needs will not occur or we relegate ourselves to tier one and two items. Perhaps we fear that these changes will make us obsolete or at best require more of our time at a time when we are acutely aware of the limits of time. The truth of this is quite the opposite. The constant improvement of ourselves and our organization will make us a more integral part of our company and as someone who embraces these changes or ideas we will learn them as they are implemented. This will also allow for the obtainment of the higher order items Maslow’s discusses. Again, this is not something new, it is the way we were when we started. Commonly asking the questions like, how does this work, and “how can I do this better”? When we find ourselves saying, “I just want to get this done”, that is when we should stop and remember why we have stayed with this company. If we are only here for the paycheck then we are in the wrong field or the wrong company. But if it is because we found the work exciting and thought we could affect change when we started then we are back to why is it different now? Companies that sit on the reputation that they made and do not challenge themselves are destined to be surpassed by those that do. Did you take this job because people listened and work with your ideas to improve the company and ourselves? Then you must ask yourself, why am I not listening to the people who work for me? Have all our young people gotten dumb? The answer is “NO”! Most of them are smarter than we were in their position. So why do we write them off so easily? Even a bad idea has some merit, even if only from a learning perspective and needs investigation. It is this dialog that fosters growth for both the company and the individual. It is this individual growth that makes the Learning Organization. Which when boiled down to brass tacks is no more than people working together.

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