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Breaking the Rules – Reprising The Slow Death of Authoritarian Leadership

July 12, 2012

While the blog is technically still on vacation, I couldn’t resist sharing a few thoughts triggered by some of today’s outrageous  headlines with you. This isn’t light reading, I know. But while some of you are at the beach or sipping a cool drink reading a summer novel (I hope) the drive for control and power doesn’t stop.

Reading about the Libor scandal and the “leader” associated with it (for now), Barclays Bank former CEO Paul Diamond, I’m reminded that its time to dust off a post from late last year, Because I Said So: The Slow Death of Authoritarian Leadership. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not conflating the actions of Mr. Diamond with every leader still obsessed with control and adherence to the Theory X model of fear-based management. But one wonders how enlightened and transparent the cultures of organizations like Barclays and JP Morgan can be under the leadership of Diamond and Dimon.

Writing about Diamond in A Shame of Leadership, Anne Perschel writes “Dear Bob: The buck stops at your office door. You are responsible for setting the tone and the culture at Barclays. You are responsible for being responsible. “I did not know,” is not an excuse or a reason. You are responsible for creating a culture where behaviors that turn your stomach do not occur, and for creating a culture where others (many of them) would apprise you when such stomach turning behaviors do occur.” Right on, Anne.

While we’re at it … I’m going to rant for a minute about critical thinking.  You know, the kind of thinking that we urgently need to solve the massive problems facing our world community. I’m no pedagogical expert, but it seems to me that critical thinking skills need to be taught right along side of reading, writing and ‘rithmatic.  Surveys of U.S. citizens show that people’s knowledge of the basics is at an all time low. We’re not learning to analyze information and discern between fact and fiction. We’re not asking enough QUESTIONS.  So I hope you’ll take another look at Question the Answers: Using Critical Thinking to Change Workplace Dynamics. Clearly some organizations believe critical thinking is a dangerous thing – dangerous to the status quo and maintenance of old power arrangements.

On Another Note

On a more pleasurable note…I want to thank Sahar who blogs over at Peeled Onion (a blog I really enjoy and recommend you visit) for passing the Very Inspiring Blogger award to me last week. It’s a lovely way of acknowledging other bloggers and sharing their work. I’ve decided to pass the mantle over to a few bloggers you might not know but who do a wonderful job of enlightening and entertaining their readers.

Don’t be mislead by Sangeeta Bhagwats’ background in statistics and business finance, Serene Reflection isn’t about hard numbers. Sangeeta, who describes herself as an “inner landscape artist” is a pure poet. She’ll also give you some great inspiration and practical advice on becoming more peaceful,relaxed and reflective using a combination of her many skills. Always a surprise and delight – check out Serene Reflection.

When I can tame my nonfiction pile, I turn to my great love of literature. Better Living Through Beowulf is a must-read if it’s a passion for you too. This St. Mary’s College of Maryland Professor will delight you with tales about the mindset of George Orwell, Drought, T.S. Eliot and Rumi and how the 2012 election mirrors the Gilded Age of Jay Gatsby. It’s smart, fun and timely writing.

Love great food? There are many terrific food blogs but I really enjoy Blue Kitchen. Every Wednesday Chicagoan Terry Boyd whips up delicious, creative fare. This week Terry’s featuring a potato and green bean salad with arugula pesto. Sounds easy and yummy.

I’m a long time P/T student of Buddhism – so I am always on the lookout for bloggers’ perspectives on the Buddhist vision. I’m delighted that I just discovered Bindu Wiles. Her post Violence and Moral Dystopia on the L Train was riveting. It spoke to the power of compassion and commitment to be “present” to what surrounds us. I really look forward to getting to know her work.

And finally, my last choice combines my long time interest in photography with my love of Italy. Bella Bagni di Lucca is a charming blog that explores a beautiful region in Northern Tuscany, north of the wonderful town of Lucca (go there if you can). I’ve had the privilege of spending some time in the area and can attest to its delights. You’ll get to know the region, feast on some lovely photography and meet the local people as in Meet Tina from Ponte a Serraglio. Simple pleasures here.

That’s it for now. Hope you enjoy the reposts – and the wonderful array of new bloggers. See you next week with a new post.

As always, I appreciate your comments, subscriptions, shares, likes and tweets.

Louise Altman, Partner, The Intentional Workplace

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