Home Concepts Concepts of Leadership Addressing the Irony: Three Styles of Leadership

Addressing the Irony: Three Styles of Leadership

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In some instances, these formal programs involve placing a new person in an interim leadership role (alongside the old leader); in other instances, it means the use of rituals and rites regarding the succession; in yet other instances, it means sending the new leader off for additional training or education. This provides the new leader with an opportunity not only to step away from their own organization to gain a fresh perspective, but also to return to their home organization with new credibility and with reassuring breadth and depth of “wisdom.” The irony of wise leadership is addressed in part by encouraging the new leader to not only learn from the old leader, but also acquire and bring to the organization her own unique and informed perspectives.

Second, there is the Soft Ironic challenge of appreciation. The wise leader helps members of the organization understand and appreciate a world that is very complex, unpredictable and turbulent. It is a white-water world and a dancing landscape. In such a world, multiple interpretations can be offered and each of these interpretations may in some important way be considered valid. This is at the heart of the ironic condition identified and described by Richard Rorty. Appreciation of this ironic condition is critical to the 21st Century leadership of wisdom. We must seek to understand and honor these diverse perspectives—this is part of the process of appreciation. We must also identify and honor the many resources that exist in our organizations to meet the multiple challenges inherent in our world of complexity, unpredictability and turbulence.

Appreciation takes place when we not only point to but also make use of these resources through construction of a human resource bank or at least enactment of a comprehensive survey of the talents already existing in our organization. (Bergquist, 2004). People want to be recognized and appreciated for the skills, knowledge and expertise they bring to the organization. They also want to honor the wisdom of their leaders. They yearn for the day when leaders were truly wise (we will never know if this “day” actually existed) and hope that they can find wisdom in their current leaders, their future leaders –and perhaps most importantly in themselves. This is the foundation of appreciation: honoring our own wisdom as well as the wisdom held and deployed by our leaders.

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