Leadership as Paraklesis

The Greek word ‘paraklesis’ loosely means to come alongside to encourage and help. One definition reads… “That which affords comfort, solace or refreshment.” I like it.

It occurs to me that this sums up the notion of ‘relational practice’ really well.

From Hero to Zero

The ‘hero’ model (leader with all the answers) is changing faster than we can shake a stick.

Increasingly, the notion of ‘hero’ and ‘command and control’ is being replaced by the idea that leadership should be concerned with creating positive social patterns of relationship that enables groups of people to act collectively and purposefully.

It has become axiomatic that change is rapid and constant. To adapt to the pace of change, organisations need to be more flexible and agile. One way of doing this is to push decision-making “down the hierarchy” and to introduce ways of aligning people with strategic goals. There is no better way of doing this than co-creating these goals!

Indeed, as globalisation and the information revolution threaten to overwhelm us, there is a need to pay attention to the wisdom of groups, and, to help people collectively make sense of the bewildering array of information. In this context leadership should be about engaging people in inquiry and creating the conditions for collective possibilities. To do this, the leader needs to be able to create a culture that genuinely supports participation through empowerment, trust and collaboration.

In the present economic climate, it is tempting for leaders to unilaterally implement turnaround strategies based on hard economic facts and to leave the soft human solutions to later, when there is the luxury of time.

This is knee jerk city. The research on employee engagement does not support this view. There is ample evidence that it is more effective to integrate hard economic-based change strategies with relational practice. This moves us away from the ‘either-or’ argument (eg, profits or people; survival today or building for tomorrow) to a more holistic ‘both-and’ position.

Seeing believing!

I have seen it work and that’s why I am telling this story! The opportunity to hear the voice of the whole system they are a part of, brings out the best in people -— dialogue becomes more collaborative, visioning becomes more creative and owned, and energy is unleashed in the form of voluntary action.

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