End of the Age of Arrogance?

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Written by Professor Richard Bolden, UWE, Bristol, 14/01/2022 for the International Leadership Association

“In reality they all lived in a kind of hieroglyphic world, where the real thing was never said or done or even thought, but only represented by a set of arbitrary signs.”

Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence, 1920

Over the past few weeks a series of stories have dominated news headlines around the world that, whilst in different contexts, bear a number of striking similarities.

The first of these concerns revelations about a string of parties hosted at 10 Downing Street during the pandemic. Whilst Prime Minister Boris Johnson has consistently attempted to deflect allegations and blame, arguing that these were work events and that Covid restrictions were followed at all times, the public and indeed his own party have become increasingly frustrated by his unwillingness to apologise and take responsibility, and his apparent disregard for the rules that he and colleagues had imposed across the country.

The second regards the ability of unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic to enter Australia to play in the Australian Open. For Djokovic this would enable him not only to defend his title but also to potentially achieve the highest ever number of Grand Slam titles in men’s tennis. His Visa application, however, has been contested on the basis of him breaching Australian Immigration rules around COVID vaccination status, as well as an error in the reporting of prior travel on his Visa form.

And the third relates to whether or not Prince Andrew will face trial for alleged illegal sexual activity. Needless to say, the Prince has consistently denied these allegations – publicly stating that he’d never met his accuser (despite photographic evidence to the contrary) and even taking part in a televised interview where he endorsed his position by stating that he was ‘unable to sweat’ and was picking up his daughter from pizza restaurant on the evening of one of the suggested incidents (despite no substantive evidence to support either claim).

Headlines on the BBC News website, at 11:00 on 14/01/2022

These stories have been widely reported, not just in mainstream media but also through the internet and social media where each has fuelled a storm of opinion and memes. Despite their obvious differences, what each of these stories has in common is the sense that people in positions of power and influence believe that they are free to operate beyond the rules that govern the ways that others are expected to live their lives. Whilst these are just the latest in a long history of examples of privilege and inequality what is notable this time is the turning tide of public opinion. Whilst there remain those that support and defend the protagonists our collective willingness to forgive and forget is in rapid decline. In each case people are frustrated not just by the incidents themselves but the lack of respect that the continued avoidance of accountability demonstrates. Trust has been broken and, whatever the outcome of any of these sagas, will be difficult to rebuild – not just for the individuals themselves but also the institutions they represent.

Together, these cases illustrate the reciprocal and relational nature of leadership. As Professor Joanne Ciulla argues: “Leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex moral relationship between people, based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good.”[i] In each of these examples the moral foundation of these individuals (and their institutions) has been brought into question, which erodes their credibility, authority and ability to influence others.

Linked to this is the sense of one set of rules for them and another set of rules of the rest of us. A fundamental premise of the social identity approach is that leaders must demonstrate that ‘we’re in this together’. Professor Stephen Reicher and colleagues have spoken particularly about the need for identity-based leadership through the pandemic and highlighted the consequences of failing to do so[ii]. The (post) pandemic situation is particularly pertinent in the cases of Boris Johnson and Novak Djokovic where the tough lockdown conditions and personal loss endured by populations in the UK and Australia make breaches of the regulations – and the apparently dismissive ways in which they have been responded to – particularly egregious.

These cases also highlight the complex, systemic nature of leadership and the need to focus attention on small details as well as broader patterns[iii]. Whilst Boris Johnson, for example, may have weathered many a storm during his career an overt breach of Covid regulations may well be enough to unseat him his position in parliament (much as it has for others in the government). For Djokovic, a failure to complete his Visa application correctly may put pay to his ambitions to win the 2022 Australian Open. And whilst not wishing to defend his actions, differences between legal systems in the UK and USA may have contributed to Prince Andrew being indictable for alleged crimes in New York.

Overall, these stories demonstrate shifting social trends around our relationship with and deference towards people in positions of power and authority. Whilst I believe we are still far from a world of ‘post-heroic leadership’, our collective tolerance for people who appear arrogant, or elitist appears to be waning. As leadership scholars, educators and practitioners, however, we must also be careful not to be drawn in the polarizing vortex of opinion that such stories fuel. Whilst these particular examples may be playing out in public view – exposing the sordid intricacies for all to see – we must also remain alert for the stories that remain hidden from view. On the day that I am writing this article, for example, the journalist Carole Cadwalladr is appearing in the High Court to defend her decision to publish and share her account of the ways in which Trump, Farage, Banks and others used Facebook to spread misinformation to influence the outcome of Brexit vote[iv]. Such cases are risky and expensive yet, unless people are willing to speak-up we may find democracy slipping away.

I began this article with a quote from Edith Wharton’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel ‘The Age of Innocence’, which highlighted the tensions and ambiguities within a world undergoing social and political change. There are many that would argue we are at a similar turning point in history – facing the combined challenges of COVID-19, climate change, and social inequality that call for a reappraisal of who ‘we’ are, what ‘we’ stand for and who ‘we’ are willing to follow. In the words of Wharton, if we are not content with the answers that we find then we have the capacity to redraw the boundaries within which we find ourselves.

“Who’s ‘they’? Why don’t you all get together and be ‘they’ yourselves?”

Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence, 1920

[i] Ciulla, J. B. (ed.) (1998) Ethics: The Heart of Leadership. Westport, CT: Quorum. P. xv.

[ii] See, for example, Jetten, J., Reicher, S., Haslam, S.A. and Crowys, T. (2020) Together Apart: The Psychology of COVID-19. London: Sage.

[iii] See, for example, French, R. and Simpson, P. (2014). Attention, Cooperation, Purpose: An approach to working in groups using insights from Wilfred Bion. Karnac.

[iv] For further details see https://www.gofundme.com/f/democracy-the-fight-back and https://www.ted.com/talks/carole_cadwalladr_facebook_s_role_in_brexit_and_the_threat_to_democracy

Organizational Ethnography: An Experiential & Practical Guide

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Jenna Pandeli, Hugo Gaggiotti and Neil Sutherland are over the moon to announce that their edited book ‘Organizational Ethnography: An Experiential and Practical Guide‘ will be available from 18th February this year! The book gives a first-hand insight into ‘doing’ ethnography, providing a toolkit that prepares ethnographers for the uncertainties and realities of fieldworking. They include chapters on different types of ethnographies, as well as analysis, all while reflecting on their experiences and practice. 

They wanted to provide a range of voices from people at different stages of their ethnographic journey so the book includes chapters from PhD students just starting out with ethnography where their experiences are raw and new, as well as seasoned ethnographers who are able to draw on a wide range of ethnographic experience. This has been a real labour of love for them all and they are delighted that ethnography is clearly such a hit in the Faculty of Business and Law as two of the chapters are authored by fantastic UWE colleagues, Sarah-Louise Weller and Chloe Tarrabain.

They are really proud of this book and its transparent approach to talking about research methods and they have received some lovely reviews from John Van Maanen, Paul Atkinson and Sudhir Venkatesh.

Organizational Ethnography sets a new standard for scholarly reflection and theoretical inquiry. The editors have assembled a smart and engaging set of essays on ethnographic methods in diverse organizational contexts. Readers will find traditional topics assessed with a fresh lens, as well as some issues – exiting the field, studying sensitive issues – that have received far less attention than they deserve. For newcomers to the craft as well as seasoned practitioners, this volume on “hanging out” in organizations is a must read.’
Sudhir Venkatesh, Columbia University, USA

‘This is a carefully edited collection of fresh and lively accounts of various phases and stages of ethnographic research in contemporary organizational settings – from planning a study, to carrying it out, to exiting the field, to writing it up. Central to each of the selections are the troubles a particular ethnographic stance presents to the researcher – many unseen at the outset of a study – and the disparate ways researchers have come up with in dealing with these vexing difficulties. These are personalized stories about the practical doing of ethnography – tales that are typically elided from the rather condensed and sanitized renderings of how a given study was accomplished that appear in print. That canonical ethnographic means and ends are necessarily strained and stretched in the flickering, messy, chaotic, emotionally laden and initially unknown surroundings and circumstances that a study seeks to tame is a reoccurring theme in these accounts. This is a work that will appeal to seasoned as well as novice researchers interested how the ethnographers of various backgrounds have dealt with the inherent uncertainties of their trade.’
John Van MaanenEmeritus Professor, MIT (Work and Organization Studies Group), USA

‘Ethnographic research is flourishing in a wide variety of social settings, and in an equally diverse range of disciplines. With a broad understanding of organisational ethnography, this collection of essays amply displays all that variety. It also captures the remarkable range of approaches – methodological and personal – that characterise contemporary field research. The contributing authors are frank in acknowledging the personal, ethical and intellectual challenges of ethnographic fieldwork, but they also convey the immense satisfaction to be gained from such research. They offer a close look under the bonnet, to see some of the things that lie behind published ethnographic research. Readers will be engaged, informed and confronted by the essays in this collection. It will be an invaluable resource for students and more experienced ethnographers alike.’
Paul AtkinsonEmeritus Professor, Cardiff University, UK

Routledge Focus on Team Academy – 4 Book Series

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This blog post is written by Berrbizne Urzelai

Why This Book Series, and Why Now?

The idea of publishing a Team Academy (TA) book for me started back in 2017 when I began working in the UK, because I could see that there were many differences between how TA was run in Mondragon (Basque Country) and at UWE (UK). In November that year, I met with an editor from Routledge and shared some of my ideas which he became excited about. However, it was not until March 2018 that I really started to put some ideas together for the project. I was already in touch with Elinor Vettraino, co-editor of this series, at that time as we were working on several cross-university projects and I remember a conversation I had with her over dinner in Finland in January 2018 (Timmiakatemia’s 25th Anniversary). Essentially, we were discussing why it was that not many people knew about TA even within our institutions. How could it be possible that we were not using the amazing global network more effectively?

In June 2018, the Team Academy UK community had their annual meeting event – the TAUK Gathering. During this connection, a number of team coaches met and reflected together about how research could actually inform our team coaching practice, programme design, pedagogical thinking, etc. We were keen to organise a Team Learning Conference where we could invite people from TA but also other EE practitioners and academics to present their work and share their knowledge. At this point, we realised that we had an opportunity to pool our interests together and publish a book for dissemination as well as organise a conference to share knowledge and practice.

I was about to go on maternity leave so I thought… this is the moment! I need to do something during this time, so let’s work on the book proposal. I created a call for chapters and started reaching out to people from the network to invite them to send us an abstract. The response was great and we ended up working on a proposal that had too many chapters so Routledge suggested a book series instead. We didn’t want to leave people out of this so we thought let’s do it!

The rest, as they say, is history!

What is it about?

The series includes more than 35 chapters from contributors all over the world (Spain, UK, Finland, France, Tanzania, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Switzerland, etc.). The aim of the series is to compile the different research, experiences, and stories about the Team Academy phenomenon throughout its worldwide network.

Book 1, Team Academy and Entrepreneurship Education examines the place and purpose of the TA model in entrepreneurship education, and indicates how and why the model has grown in popularity and interest over the last 3 decades.

Book 2, Team Academy in Practice focuses on different contexts and learning environments in which TA pedagogical and cultural practices coalesce, through the stories, experiences and research of those engaged in the practice.

Book 3, Team Academy: Leadership and Teams, investigates topics such as the ways in which learners on programmes based on this learning-by-doing model attempt to navigate the complexity of leadership and team dynamics, whilst understanding their place and impact on the processes involved.

Book 4, Team Academy in Diverse Settings offers the readers critical considerations on how TA has inspired different settings and how it has been implemented in different contexts (disciplines, industries, non-HE settings, etc.) and cultures, creating a legacy by those who have engaged with the process.

More information HERE

Contact: Berrbizne2.urzelai@uwe.ac.uk

Bristol Leadership & Change Centre 2021 Highlights

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As one year comes to an end and another begins, we take a look back on 2021 to share some of the highlights from Bristol Leadership & Change Centre and the interesting projects members have been involved with.

Research Highlights

Professor Peter Case secured a prestigious Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant (in collaboration with the Malaria Elimination Initiative research centre based at the University of California, San Francisco) to assist the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) in Zimbabwe to improve HIV prevention.

Dr Gareth Edwards, Dr Harriet Shortt, Professor Doris Schedlitzki from London Met University and Dr Sylwia Ciuk from Oxford Brookes University were successful in securing funding from the British Academy of Management (BAM) and the Society for the Advancement of Management (SAMS). The £145,000 fund will enable them to research leadership and language through visual representation over the next two years. They are hoping that this piece of research can encourage leadership studies and other organisation and management disciplines to take language more seriously in their research with the objective of becoming more inclusive.

Katie Joyce, Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies completed her first Principal Investigator role following a successful research bid. She project managed and chaired the workshop: ‘Digital Methodologies – principles and practice of researching online’. The bid was approved by the Society for the Advancement of Management Studies.  The project team also included Dr Harriet Shortt, Prof Katrina Pritchard (Swansea University) and Craig Lennox (RBI input and event intern).

Professor Carol Jarvis, Dr Hugo Gaggiotti, Dr Selen Kars and Kay Galpin  were lucky enough to receive Higher Education Innovation Funding for The Unleadership Movement, to run a series of collaborative workshops in 2021 to start to understand more about the dimensions they’d identified; Paying it Forward with Kindness; Living with Imperfection; Catching the Wave and Confident Collaborating. The Unleadership Movement has gone from strength to strength in 2021 – from an idea to a movement! Since beginning with curiosity about leaderly practices in the pandemic and reflecting how both the state of exception and our consequent returning to a sense of normal they have learned so much this year.

Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Integrated Care System (ICS) is leading the way on integration to close the gap in health and wellbeing outcomes against a backdrop of limited finances, increasing population numbers and increasing numbers of people living in ill health. To support this, partners are working as an Organisation Development (OD) Collaborative across the whole system to develop well supported, informed and involved leaders and services that have the ability to influence the wider system into working effectively with partners across health, social care and the voluntary sector to provide joined up patient/service user care. In preparation for the introduction of ICS’s on a formal footing in 2022, Professor Carol Jarvis, Rob Sheffield, Professor Richard Bolden, Selen Kars and Margaret Roberts were commissioned by NHS Midlands Leadership Academy (Leadership and Lifelong Learning) to conduct a pre-diagnostic study. This research seeks to develop recommendations, grounded in a robust investigation of current and best practice, that will support the implementation of a sustainable, system-wide community of practice, with an emphasis on cultural development; service improvement/innovation methodologies; and leadership and in support of providing joined up patient/service user care.

Another research highlight for Professor Richard Bolden in 2021 was working on a project for the NHS London Leadership Academy into the experiences of healthcare workers through the pandemic and the implications and learning for leadership practice and development. The project was delivered entirely online and involved a diverse team of staff and visiting faculty including Anita Gulati, Addy Adelaine, Charlotte von Bulow and Conroy Grizzle. They also worked with a professional artist, Julian Burton from Delta7, to bring the participants’ powerful stories to life. Whilst the report is not yet in the public domain it is informing discussions within and beyond the Academy about how best to support and develop individuals, organisations and the wider system now and into the future.

Teaching & Learning

Professor Peter Case supported the delivery of a two-day face-to-face training workshop in August 2021 for nineteen Zimbabwe healthcare professionals enrolled on the FBL Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice in Change Leadership (PPCL). The students are working as part of the Bill & Melinda Gates funded project co-led by Peter to restructure and improve HIV/AIDS prevention in Zimbabwe. The PPCL module is designed to enable students to combine their studies with experiential workplace learning.

A teaching and learning highlight for Professor Richard Bolden was setting up and running the Leadership, Complexity and Change in Healthcare module for the Advanced Clinical Practitioner Degree Apprenticeship programme. This has now been delivered to over 60 participants in two cohorts (May-June and October-November 2021) and will continue as a core module on the programme. He delivers it alongside Gina Burns and Rob Sheffield, as well as colleagues from the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences.

Katie Joyce has enjoyed a number of teaching highlights in 2021, including module leading the ‘Professional Practice in Change Leadership’ (PPCL) which was an excellent example of highly effective teamwork and partnership working across continents, despite complex challenges faced due to the Covid19 pandemic. Katie has also been working in collaboration with HAS, leading on the coach education aspect of a trailblazing undergraduate programme titled: ‘Student Healthcare Leadership Programme’ (SHLP).  Students on this programme are allocated to a coach (a senior healthcare leader), and undertake x3 one hour 1:1 coaching session with the aim of developing their leadership capabilities.  Developed by the Council of Deans of Health in 2016 and funded by Health Education England (HEE), UWE are one of the first universities in England to run a health-specific coaching scheme of this kind.

Dr Harriet Shortt and Katie Joyce together ran the first online ‘Personal Mastery in Leadership’ module, during a pandemic AND getting lovely feedback!

Dr Arthur Turner‘s teaching highlight is working with Dr Karine Mangion on the ILM Coaching and Mentoring Certificates at Level 5 and Level 7. Karine has brought a huge amount of expertise and laughter to these vocational qualifications, which over the past 8 years have had over 70 registered at any one time.

Publications

Inspired by the pioneering Finnish ‘Team Academy’ approach, UWE Bristol was among the first to introduce this programme to the UK. Our award-winning BA (Hons) in Business (Team Entrepreneurship) is an innovative degree course that allows students to develop practical skills by working in teams, creating value for organisations, forming ventures and ultimately learning how to manage themselves to become effective problem-solvers. A new Routledge book series outlining case studies and research from the Team Academy around the world has recently been co-edited by Berrbizne Urzelai Lopez De Aberasturi, one of the Team Coaches at UWE, and provides valuable insights for those looking to find out more about this approach. There are four books in the series, including: Team Academy and Entrepreneurship Education, Team Academy in Practice, Team Academy: Leadership and Teams, and Team Academy in Diverse Settings.

Along with Professor Jonathan Gosling, Professor Peter Case published a set of open access resources in collaboration with the Malaria Elimination Initiative (MEI) and the University of California, San Francisco. The resources are entitled LEAD: Leadership & Engagement for Improved Accountability & Delivery of Services Framework  and comprise a set of guidelines and practical tools for Ministries of Health and advisors to assist with the improvement of malaria healthcare services. It is the product of work that Peter and Jonathan have been conducting with MEI for the past seven years in low- and middle-income countries across the globe.

Dr Jenna Pandeli, Senior Lecturer in Organisation Studies, had her research featured in an article in the Financial Times titled ‘Orange Collar’ workers are not the best solution to labour shortages. An excerpt of the article follows. Jenna was also delighted to discover that her UWE colleague had read the article in the Spanish Financial Times whilst travelling in Barcelona!

‘Much of the work that does take place inside prison workshops, even for private sector companies, is poor preparation for life outside. Jenna Pandeli at the University of the West of England spent 10 months observing and interviewing male prisoners involved in privately contracted prison work such as breaking up electrical items for recycling, putting stickers on parcels and sorting through waste. The work was mostly boring, monotonous and low-skilled, she found. Indeed, these jobs were disappearing from the world outside the prison gates because they were being offshored to cheaper locations. In England and Wales, the minimum pay for prisoners who work is just £4 a week.’

Dr Charlotte von Bülow and Dr Peter Simpson were successful in securing a new book publication

With Palgrave Macmillan which will be coming out in Spring 2022.  Offering fresh insights for leadership students, researchers, and practitioners on the challenges of working in uncertainty, the book offers a novel perspective on Negative Capability as a way of being. Each chapter explores an aspect of Negative Capability through the accounts of leaders and managers who had the courage to explore this way of being and share the stories about its powerful impact. Ultimately, this book explores how a practice of attention can lead to new ways of understanding the role of purpose, leisure, and passion in leadership practice. They’ve received some wonderful endorsements.

Dr Arthur Turner, Dr Gareth Edwards and Dr Harriet Shortt had their paper published: “Reflections from the field (mountain, cityscape and park): walking for management development and links to being-in-the world, belonging and “Ba”” in the Journal of Management Development.

Arthur, Gareth and Harriet (plus a colleague, Catherine Latham from South Wales) worked together for seven years to pull together data that they had been collecting from programmes and interventions where we had been utilising aspects of walking in the development of leadership. They selected, together, three different theoretical stand-points and discussed in their paper the reasons why they thought walking and adult leadership development went together so well. 

Events

During 2021, The Unleadership team were able to work with some interns who have helped them to develop their identity on social media and to create some engaging animations and videos to share their ideas. What has been really refreshing is the rich stories their collaborators have shared with them during their six online workshops, from describing how they can ”let the human spirit into our workplaces” to making time in our communities and our lives to be true the values we hold dear. They also enjoyed sharing some learning at the Collective Leadership for Scotland Campfires event in September with an international audience where they heard more ideas about connection, bravery and communityship during adversity. It’s been inspiring to hear how thoughts about leading, not leadership – have resonated with others; some who have felt that they have found a new language to talk about what they are doing, taking leaps of faith, driven by the desire to make a difference and to connect with others without encapsulating their experiences into a leader-follower dichotomy.

Towards the end of 2021, Bristol Leadership & Change Centre hosted two online events before and after COP26. The first event in October, two of our visiting faculty members – Charlene Collison and Professor Jonathan Gosling discussed the opportunities, and likely challenges, of COP26 in securing real progress on climate change.  Drawing on extensive experience in a range of contexts, the speakers will shared their thoughts and reflections on what a successful COP needed to enable and set society up to deliver.

The second event in December began with a conversation between Jonathan Gosling and Steve Martineau, a member of the team appointed by the UK High-Level Climate Action Champion for COP26 Nigel Topping. Steve began by discussing the background to this work and the role of the Climate Action Champions in representing the voices of business and other communities in the discussions. He illustrated this by characterising the national governments as vertical systems, with business, finance, etc. as horizontal systems that intersect these at a global level. Following this discussion, Charlene Collison shifted our attention to the impacts of climate change on local communities and individuals around the world. She did this by highlighting that even with the agreements at COP26 we are on track for a 2.5oC increase in global temperatures – well beyond that experienced through human history.

External Engagement

Visiting faculty member Charlene Collison, Associate Director, Sustainable Value Chains and Livelihoods, Forum for the Future.Charlene leads multi-stakeholder collaborative initiatives across a range of sectors and themes, including directing the Cotton 2040 initiative in which she launched a climate change risk assessment tool for the global cotton sector and ran a series of workshops with cross sector participation to understand the risks, what the implications might be along the value chain, and priority actions the sector needs to take.

In 2021 Professor Richard Bolden and colleagues completed Phase 4 of the local evaluation of the Golden Key programme, which compiled evidence from a range of initiatives to support system change for the provision of services for people with multiple disadvantage in Bristol. They also supported the successful bid led by Bristol City Council to secure funding for a further three year’s work as part of the Changing Futures initiative from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government as well as the National Lottery Community Fund.

Averting Climate Catastrophe: Where next after COP26?

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Richard Bolden and Charlotte von Bulow, December 2021

With over forty thousand registered delegates from almost 200 countries the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November 2021, was the largest yet. Amongst those in attendance were 120 heads of state and despite scepticism about the likelihood of securing a meaningful agreement a last-minute deal was struck that calls for “the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”(1). Nevertheless, it is widely acknowledged that we are currently on track to significantly exceed the 1.5oC threshold, beyond which global warming is likely to produce catastrophic outcomes across much of the world, including sea level rises, extreme weather and the destruction of habitats and ecosystems.

Bristol Leadership and Change Centre has hosted two online seminars to consider the opportunities and challenges for/of COP26 and the implications for leadership, collaboration and care in the face of climate change more widely. In the first event, held five days before the start of the summit, Charlene Collison and Professor Jonathan Gosling shared their thoughts on key issues and questions that would need to be addressed during COP26 in order to achieve a successful outcome. A blog post outlining this discussion has already been posted. In this current blog we outline discussions at the second seminar, hosted on 8th December.  

The event began with a conversation between Jonathan Gosling and Steve Martineau, a member of the team appointed by the UK High-Level Climate Action Champion for COP26 Nigel Topping. Steve began by discussing the background to this work and the role of the Climate Action Champions in representing the voices of business and other communities in the discussions. He illustrated this by characterising the national governments as vertical systems, with business, finance, etc. as horizontal systems that intersect these at a global level.

“The Paris Agreement is fundamentally an agreement between national governments, and if we think of each of those national governments as a vertical in the global system, we’re there really to represent the horizontal systems that run across those – so it’s not just business but can be civil society to some extent, it can be education systems, it can be finance systems – so all those horizontal systems that represent different parts of society and the economy that need to transform at the global level … those voices need to be heard loud enough for it to be effective.”

Steve stressed the importance of engaging these groups in both shaping and implementing the transformations required to tackle global warming, citing a number of examples of where businesses were actively driving change in their respective sectors. In such cases, sometimes as a result of demand from customers as well as the need to recruit and retain staff, sustainability is directly linked to business performance and success. Steve mentioned the ‘ambition loop’ whereby, rather than simply responding to government regulation and legislation, business and organisations are demanding positive change from their governments to level the playing field and to disincentivise unsustainable business practices.

The conversation concluded with Jonathan asking Steve about the role of political activists and protest groups during the COP26 talks.

“I think those voices are more important than ever… It’s really important that the widest possible community of individuals communicate their appetite for change… to give confidence to elected politicians… and for CEOs of companies to know that this is what their staff want… Nigel Topping was keen to say that those voices of protest in Glasgow were a very important part of the mix because the decision makers need to be repeatedly reminded that an awful lot of people out there want to see the change happen.”

Following this discussion, Charlene Collison shifted our attention to the impacts of climate change on local communities and individuals around the world. She did this by highlighting that even with the agreements at COP26 we are on track for a 2.5oC increase in global temperatures – well beyond that experienced through human history. To illustrate the challenges this will cause, Charlene presented findings from the Cotton 2040  project she has been leading for Forum for the Future. The cotton sector employs around 350 million people in farming and production alone and is a truly global industry. As such, it provides important insights into the effects of climate change for agriculture, employment and business models more widely.

Charlene began by showing the Climate Risk Explorer Tool developed for this project that highlights a range of climate hazards facing the Cotton Industry, including reduced growing season, heat stress, drought, rainfall, flooding, wildfire and landslides. This is a sobering assessment of the scale of the challenges – where a significant proportion of the world’s population will experience climactic conditions that are adverse not just to growing cotton but to pretty much all aspects of human life.

Charlene encouraged us to consider what this data means at a human level – to the people trying to live, work and support their families in such harsh conditions. The disruption caused by such changes will affect supply chains globally, although the impacts will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, with farmers and producers most exposed to the risks. Whilst the physical and economic impacts are not to be understated, the mental and emotional toll will be particularly significant for those on the frontline of climate change.

Over the past few months Charlene and colleagues have been running roundtable events with a range of stakeholders, encouraging people to ‘step into that world’ and genuinely reflect on the issues and what they mean for both those involved directly in the cotton industry and the population more generally. Summarising key insights Charlene said:

  • We need to prepare for disruption – and facilitate a just transition.
  • It’s hard for people – including leaders – to imagine this systemic level of disruption and change. We are learning to have the conversation.
  • It will only be possible to meet these challenges by transformation in the economy, business models, practices, and above all, mindsets.

Following these thought-provoking contributions delegates were allocated to breakout groups to discuss the points raised and share examples of what they and others are doing to address these issues. Feedback was shared in a plenary discussion, with examples of local-level action including the establishment of the Bristol River Avon Bioregion Group, and the work of campaign groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for the Future. In the latter cases, however, it was noted that proposed changes through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, currently submitted to the House of Lords for approval, would greatly reduce the capacity for social activism on climate change as well as other issues.

Overall, this event highlighted the need for local action to complement national/international events such as COP if we are to have any chance of minimising the impacts of climate change. Whilst COP26 was neither a great success nor a total failure it did mark the first time that there was a serious attempt to secure agreement around eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels (despite the fact that the oil and gas industry sent the largest delegation to Glasgow). More importantly, perhaps, it highlighted the strength of feeling amongst the wider population – particularly younger generations – that it really is time to move from talk to action on climate change and the need to address associated inequalities.

If you missed the event you can watch the full recording in two parts below.

Perspectives on Leadership in Global Higher Education

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Reposted with permission from the Advance HE blog, 16/12/2021


Over the past two months, as part of our scoping study for the Advance HE Leadership Survey, we have run 11 two-hour online roundtables on the nature and purpose(s) of leadership in contemporary higher education (HE). More than 100 individuals have contributed, representing the views of early career academics, established academics and professors, professional service directors and managers, senior executives, staff and organisational development practitioners, various representative associations, and HE support and funding bodies. While many contributors have been UK-based we have purposely engaged members of an international HE community and captured perspectives from multiple country settings including Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Egypt, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates.

Together these conversations have provided rich and revealing insights into a turbulent and changing HE environment. It has been humbling to hear the scale of the challenges faced by HE staff at all levels and colleagues across the HE community, and equally inspiring to witness their commitment to the social value and societal benefit of higher education. The roundtables have been emotional, cathartic and energizing – a moment for reflection within ever more crowded diaries, and an opportunity to listen and to be heard by peers with compassion and empathy.

Unsurprisingly the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a backdrop to much of the conversation and has amplified many long-standing concerns. Issues of funding, workload, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, government policy, marketisation and the growth of hybrid and digital working are key priorities and concerns impacting global HE. Such concerns, however, are not easily resolved and their complex interdependencies highlight the difficulties of successfully navigating this shifting and uncertain terrain.

Within each roundtable we spent time exploring how values and purpose shape leadership in HE and, whilst participants articulated a strong set of ethical principles, they acknowledged that these are not always recognised and rewarded within an increasingly competitive and target-driven sector. Many of the discussions evoked a sense of existential crisis and the need for a much stronger sector-wide debate about the purpose and contribution of HE in a changing world. Torn between the demands and expectations of a range of powerful stakeholders there was a sense that some institutions, and their leaders, may potentially be losing sight of what really matters.

We concluded each roundtable by collating thoughts on the skills, competencies and behaviours required of HE leaders now and into the future. Common themes that emerged included courage, compassion, authenticity, agility, resilience, communication, decisiveness and the ability to build and sustain trust. Whilst many of the points referred to leaders in formal positions there was recognition of the need to develop and nurture collective or shared leadership at all levels.

As we work through the transcripts we are reminded of the pressing need for critical discussion about HE leadership during a time of global challenges and look forward to sharing emerging findings at the dissemination and engagement events in February 2022.

Authors: Richard Bolden, Professor of Leadership and Management, UWE, Bristol; Richard Watermeyer, Professor of Education, University of Bristol; Doug Parkin, Principal Adviser for Leadership and Management, Advance HE; and Katy Outhart, Membership Services Executive, Advance HE

HIV healthcare staff in Zimbabwe begin PG Certificate in Professional Practice in Change Leadership

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Dr Greyling Viljoen and Dr Prisciplla Matuare (Women’s University in Africa), supported remotely by Professor Peter Case, recently delivered a two-day face-to-face training workshop (18-19 August 2021) for nineteen Zimbabwe healthcare professionals enrolled on the FBL Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice in Change Leadership (PPCL). The students are also working as part of a Bill & Melinda Gates funded project co-led by Peter to restructure and improve HIV/AIDS prevention in Zimbabwe. The PPCL module is designed to enable students to combine their studies with experiential workplace learning.  

The PPCL programme forms an integral part of a project entitled ‘Optimizing Stakeholder Operating Models for HIV Prevention in Zimbabwe’ – OPTIMISE, for short. The project, which has been running since June 2020 and is due to conclude in May 2022, addresses health HIV service delivery in Manicaland, Matabeleland North and Matabelend South provinces. The aim is to support and capacitate the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) in working with stakeholders to develop and implement sustainability plans. This involves reviewing progress on the MoHCC strategy and facilitating the process of establishing goals, priorities and action plans. It also strives to create the necessary leadership coalition to drive change in the health service.

There is a diverse cohort of students on the PPCL module representing different levels with the system: from senior MoHCC directors through to front line staff working in health facilities. Students undertake theoretical studies supported by materials on Blackboard and are trained in the application of the project’s LEAD methodology. There is also a significant ‘supervised practice’ element of the course whereby students are supported in applying their learning.  

Thanks go to Katie Joyce (module leader) and UWE’s Faculty of Business and Law Professional Development Team for their excellent support in delivering the PPCL module.   The main collaborating partners for this work are the Malaria Elimination Initiative (University of California, San Francisco) Population Services International and the Clinton Health Access Initiative.

Global Leaders gather at ILA Conference

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Leadership experts from around the world will gather live and online 5 – 9 November for the International Leadership Association’s (ILA’s) virtual global conference, Leading at the Edge. Global leaders and featured speakers will meaningfully address the changing role of leadership globally in an era of COVID-19, declining democratic norms, social justice movements, economic uncertainty, corporate responsibility, climate emergency, and more.

A partial list of featured plenary and spotlight speakers includes:  

Global Leaders – Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (Director-General, The World Health Organization – WHO); Princess Mabel van Oranje ( Initiator & Board Chair, Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage)

Thought Leaders – ILA 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award Winners Ron Heifetz (Harvard University) and Ron Riggio (Claremont McKenna College); Otto Scharmer (Presencing Institute); Margaret Heffernan (Forward Institute); Matt Qvortrup (Coventry University); Richard Bolden (Bristol Business School, University of the West of England); Henry Mintzberg (McGill University); Barbara Kellerman (Harvard University); Gareth Edwards (Bristol Business School, University of the West of England).

Business Leaders – May Abdel Asim (Founder, Media & More in Cairo); Helle Bank Jorgensen (CEO, Competent Boards); Christophe Dubi (ED, International Olympic Committee); Gamini Hewawasam (CEO, FineFinish Engineering); Aline Kamakian (Chef & CEO, Fig Holding); Mahmoud Mohieldin (ED, International Monetary Fund); Marta del Rio (Founder & CEO, Wasi Organics); David Lee Schreiner (President & CEO, Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital); Mark Shapiro (President & CEO, Toronto Blue Jays).

With a stellar list of keynotes and featured speakers, 400+ expert session and workshop presenters, and a diverse array of networking opportunities Leading at the Edgepromises to inform, inspire, and invigorate.

As ILA President & CEO, Cynthia Cherrey sums up, “Our live, online virtual event is designed to deliver everything that makes an in-person ILA conference special: plenaries from global leaders working at the intersection of theory and practice; workshops, panels, and presentations with speakers from around the world; special networking activities organized by our member communities and social engagement committee designed to help attendees converse and create collaborative networks; and a Meeting Hub that allows you to easily set up impromptu virtual meetings on our conference platform.”

The conference is open to everyone. Registration fees are as low as $125 USD and attendees can choose to attend the sessions live or access the video recordings on-demand through the end of the year. Continuing Education credits (CEUs) are also available to meet professional requirements.

“We invite you to join us for this live online virtual conference as we explore leadership, the ways that we lead, and what we expect from leaders,” remarks Conference Chair Kathryn Goldman Schuyler. “Leading at the Edge will nourish those who lead, consult, teach, study, and conduct research with exciting ideas, innovative projects, and good friends — both old and new.”

For complete details, please explore the conference website at ILAGlobalConference.org or email Global2020@ila-net.org.

The International Leadership Association is a worldwide professional association committed to advancing leadership knowledge and practice for a better world. We accomplish our mission through the creation of trusted leadership resources and via the synergy that occurs by bringing people together in the trusted space of our conferences and events, collectively having a multiplier impact on leadership and change. For more than twenty years the ILA has convened extraordinary talent across sectors, cultures, disciplines, and generations. Learn more at www.ila-net.org.

Multidisciplinary Research Teams and Transdisciplinary Impacts

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In September Peter Case, Professor of Organization Studies at UWE Bristol delivered a webinar for staff and doctoral students at the College of Business, Law & Governance – James Cook University in Australia. Here is a summary of his presentation, talking about multidisciplinary research teams and transdisciplinary impacts.

Researchers increasingly find themselves inhabiting a world in which sponsors demand that their work generate outcomes and impacts beyond the walls of academia. There is an expectation that applied research will yield beneficial changes to one or more of the following areas of life: economy, society, culture, public policy, the environment, health and wellbeing. Moreover, many of the problems that researchers face are extremely complex, if not ‘wicked’ (Rittel & Webber, 1973) in nature.

The challenges of tackling problems caused by climate change or trying to achieve sustainable development, for example, typically involve multiple stakeholder interests and are mediated by an array of interrelated socio-material factors.  Accommodating such high levels of complexity is an endeavour that, arguably, falls beyond the scope and capacity of any single disciplinary frame.

One response to challenges posed by complexity is to employ multidsiciplinary research teams. These teams typically comprise a diverse set of experts who bring particular specialist perspectives, theories and methodologies to bear on a given problem. Multidisciplinary teams thus afford a more holistic approach to the issue at hand and, moreover, hold the prospect of producing ‘joined up’ solutions to any given problem.

Peter Case recently gave a talk on this, sharing some of his experiences of working with mutlidisciplinary research teams in the context of complex problems and large scale projects. He spoke about drawing on his work in international development and global healthcare spaces to explore what is involved in forming teams, managing group dynamics and harnessing collective efforts to meet overall project aims and objectives.

Peter concluded by arguing that enhancing research impact entails moving beyong a strictly multidisciplinary approach to a transdisciplinary mode of stakeholder engagement; one in which academic researchers facilitate and contribute to wider dialogue with partner institutions and intended beneficiaries.

Bringing Ideas to Life: The role of mediating objects

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Written by Dr Arthur F Turner – Senior Lecturer in Organisational Studies, UWE, Bristol.

Since 2008 I have been looking into the growth of leadership in managers and, more broadly speaking, I have been journeying towards a degree of understanding of how these ‘magical’ transitions take place. I have more recently been tutoring and facilitating the learning of coaching and mentoring through the teaching of elements in the curriculum of ILM Level 7 and Level 5 vocational qualifications.

One part of this decade-long inquiry has been the surfacing of Vygotsky’s ‘mediating objects’ as a vital piece of theory that really seems to work. I had been describing these ideas to my colleagues, students and clients (I have been a qualified coach since 2008) in terms of philosophical ideas and theories (see, for example, Heidegger, Huizinga and Vygotsky – all male European philosophers of the early 19th century).

My own favourite mediating objects to use in leadership and management development are finger puppets of culturally-diverse characters (both real and fictional) which have a powerful way of stimulating ideas and re-enacting workplace dynamics. I have written about how and why these puppets work and, more often than not, I have found myself drawn towards the Déscartian view of minds and bodies having a distinct ontological basis. Whilst thoughts and ideas in your head are shapeless and have no form through the use of mediating objects (puppets or whatever) these ideas, challenges or issues can be expressed in a more solid way, through an object that gives it shape and structure.

A selection of finger puppets used in leadership development workshops

For several years I felt these ideas must have some more up-to-date, supporting philosophies. My searches often led along blind alleyways… until recently. A chance look at a collection of articles in the New Scientist in 2019 I came across Lambros Malafouris and his theory of Material Engagement. All of sudden a modern philosophical translation of the role of objects in our world came into view. Like London buses no sooner had one emerged than another turned the corner into view. From Emma Watton and Phillipa Chapman’s leadership and cognitive artefacts premise to Object Orientated Ontology (OOO) championed by Graham Harman via the hermeneutic spaces of Michel Foucault; mediating objects have been coming out of the shadows! This time of year, Autumn, also gives some spur to the acknowledgment of the ways in which ideas and learning can emerge from nowhere. Take for example the humble fungus:

I have been fascinated by fungi for a long time and testament to this are a small collection of porcelain fungi at my home, modelled to represent specific species. These models are a doorway into the weird world of fungi which now, in real life, often appear overnight, lawns, tree-trunks and fallen branches are festooned with a dazzling array of shapes and sizes, mostly based on a standard, young-child-seen, shape of stem and cap. A new book by Merlin Sheldrake now has retold the research that reveals a parent mycelium that weaves and interacts for miles amidst root, leaf-fall and wood. This mycelium is closely interwoven and often miles long. Far from a non-sentient being fungi and the mycelium that is the fungi can work together over miles, lasso nematodes, trap and enslave ants and break down rock, stone and concrete slabs… a concept now referred to as the Wood Wide Web.

Holding one porcelain fungal model in my hand can open opportunities to talk about living organisms, ecosystems and on to discussion about stakeholders, networks, knowledge, intelligence and complex chemicals. Objects mediate human understanding and ferment the production of knowledge and understanding.   

I’d be interested to hear about any mediating objects you use in your own leadership and/or organisation development practice, and your experiences of how these support and mobilise the shifts in awareness that characterise deep learning.

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