Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Right Thing

The Copenhagen Climate Conference is now over and a predictable outcome - ie no real agreement - is the result. As is to be expected, both those who want action on climate change and those who oppose it are leveraging from the result to bolster their position.

Its a real dilemma for national leaders. On the one hand there is abundant evidence of climate change - the huge snow storms in the USA and Europe are not in accord with established weather patterns; glaciers are melting in the Arctic and Antarctic; droughts and fires continue to ravage Australia. On the other hand debate rages as to whether these changes are caused by human action through such issues as CO2 emission and the argument is made that countries will suffer economic problems if industries are forced to change established habits. Do our national leaders pay attention to long term environmental issues or shorter term economic issues?

A few years ago Professor Warren Bennis, a leading leadership researcher and writer, said; "Managers do things right: Leaders do the right thing." His argument was that sometimes leaders need to be prepared to break the rules in order to bring about the desired future.

Elliot Jacques (Requisite Organization, 1998, Cason, Hall & Co, VA) talks about the need for people at different levels of organisations to have increasing degrees of competence to handle complexity. He argues that people with responsibility for major organisations with very complex goals and strategies need to be able to deal with potential issues some 50 years hence. He makes the point that many problems arise because people making decisions do not have the competence to deal with the levels of complexity involved - in that case they over simplify or opt for the status quo because they are out of their depth even if they are not aware of it. Other researchers, Don Beck and Chris Cowan (Spiral Dynamics, 1996, Blackwell Publishers, inc) make a similar point when they argue that most of today's problems arose from yesterday's decisions.

I want a world for my grandchildren and their grandchildren that is even better than the one in which we live today. I am concerned that our "leaders" - political, business, religious, social - all too often are unable to deal with the levels of complexity they encounter.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at http://www.dglong.com

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