Quote of the Day

Today I heard someone use the phrase “Guide on the side, not a sage on the stage” to describe their leader.

Over the course of the last decade, I’ve seen so many of the latter: their flamboyant style of “leadership” supposed to “lift up the troops & march boldly ahead to success”.  Work is not war, & I have come to loathe that language.

Occasionally, I have had the privilege of being around good leaders, to learn from them.  Of course I fail awfully, but if only 1 in 10 of the ideas become part of me, the compounding effects have been invaluable.


[Link] The Vanishing Middle Manager, McKinsey

A perspective worth considering: what should middle management actually be doing?

Think of the role of the direct manager in performance management. Ultimately, it’s not about the system. It’s not about the form. It’s about whether your direct manager helps you understand the value of your work and how it fits into a broader strategy. It’s about coaching. It’s about real-time feedback delivered by a human. I think we’ve undervalued those elements, tried to systematize them away with data, with systems, with tools. Meanwhile, workers are asking for better leaders, better apprenticeships, better coaching. When we try to disintermediate the role of a good midlevel leader, I think we do this at our peril.

[Link] Scott Eblin on 3 Big Things …

This resonated strongly with me.

The longer the pandemic goes on, the more important the need for connection is. The way we’ve been working for the past year leads us to default to just getting the work done in a very transactional manner. When it’s just about getting the work done, connection suffers. That’s a longer-term problem because people need connection to be at their best.

Read more here

[Link] Coordination in a Large Group Without Plans or Leaders

“A widespread belief is that large groups engaged in joint actions that require a high level of flexibility are unable to coordinate without the introduction of additional resources such as shared plans or hierarchical organizations. Here, we put this belief to a test, by empirically investigating coordination within a large group of 16 musicians performing collective free improvisation—a genre in which improvisers aim at creating music that is as complex and unprecedented as possible without relying on shared plans or on an external conductor. We show that musicians freely improvising within a large ensemble can achieve significant levels of coordination, both at the level of their musical actions (i.e., their individual decisions to play or to stop playing) and at the level of their directional intentions (i.e., their intentions to change or to support the music produced by the group).”

From a study published in Nature.

On Character

Over the last few days, the best in human nature has shone through. (I prefer to see the good – there are far too many places you can gorge on things that aren’t).  I’ve seen plenty of examples of the generosity of spirit that still exists despite the virulent attack on the human race. 

It’s these people and their leadership in the community, through their acts of kindness in moments of disasters, often personal catastrophes is what makes us still have hope for humanity, That when this is over (& yes, this too shall pass), we may see a better society where more people have reconnected with themselves, with those they had gradually lost touch with, with Nature & with a sense of gratitude.

Once can still hope – after all, hope is what keeps us going.

The miracle of Harlesden [article]

Sometimes, the best thing management can do is to get out of the way, writes Francis Gouillart in his blog on co-creation. Invited to assist in helping the local UK unemployment office in Harlesden engage with the ethnic communities in the region, Gouillart explains that overcoming his initial urge to jump on a plane back to Boston was worthwhile. An interesting read, if you are in any sort of leadership roles.