Dr Phil James
How leadership with a culture of care is inspiring
Much time and attention is given to how leaders need to adopt different styles and approaches depending on the context of what they’re doing. That’s all well and good, but often that assumes there’s some sort of trade-off between driving strategy and showing compassion for other people. My difficulty with that way of thinking is that it places a lot of emphasis on the leader as separate to other people, with special abilities to detach from what is going on to steer and control things from an abstract perspective. It’s become normal to think of organisations as machines designed to deliver outputs: profits, healthcare, widgets, coffee, entertainment – you name it.
But for me, organisations are not machine-like at all, but places where people come together to get things done. Take away the all the trappings for just a moment – the job titles, the marketing hype, the mission statements and the uniforms. What’s underneath are the things we lose sight of: power, politics, emotion, identity and people not operating like cogs in a machine but, well, like people. If we see organisations as multiple ongoing conversations between people, how might we respond differently to our challenges as leaders? Outside of ‘the people stuff’ what’s left, in actuality, for us to do, as leaders? What does that tell us about our ethical responsibilities? And is there such a thing as a ‘leader’ at all?
Let’s talk about what’s often neglected, the invisible and the taboo. Let’s challenge the seductive rhetoric about transformational and charismatic leadership rhetoric. Let’s ask how leaders can possible begin to inspire if it’s not about nurturing a culture of care.
Board Member, Tavistock Institute of Human Relations; Former CEO, Institute of Leadership & Management
I’m an experienced charity sector CEO and Board member with a passion for promoting reflective and thoughtful management practice. I have a Master’s degree in Corporate Direction and am currently completing my doctoral studies at the Complexity & Management Centre at the University of Hertfordshire, pursuing an interest into the application of complexity science as an analogy for management and organisations. I see the world as inherently complex, and my place in it as a participant with a responsibility to act ethically. I think critically about my experience and have the confidence and creativity to challenge accepted practices in order to stimulate and respond to change and how we think about what we’re doing together in organisations. My primary interest is in critiquing traditional management and governance practices that emphasise metrics over human relations. I want to see management thought, talk and action reflect the challenges of our time, so that people can find meaning in their work and succeed in delivering organisational goals.