This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Register today and save 20%* off your first order! Details
Sign in / Register
Imagining the Future of Leadership
A Call for Mindful Leadership
12:00 PM Wednesday April 28, 2010 by Ellen Langer | Comments (5)
To build a better future do we need a radically different kind of leadership? If so, what might allow us to build a better model?
Imagining the Future of Leadership
(Editor's note: This post is part of a six-week blog series on how leadership might look in the future.)
Email Tweet This
Mindlessness — not a good quality for any organization — has led to some questionable assumptions about the need for leaders; namely that 1) those who lead have privileged and reliable abilities and knowledge — what are often described as "leadership competencies" ; and 2) people need to be led to achieve their goals. If organizations were mindful — referring to the simple act of noticing new things — leadership would be quite a different matter. They would not only be mindful themselves; their most important responsibility would be to enable their followers to be mindful as well. One might argue that in an increasingly complex world — where work cuts across all types of institutional boundaries — the leader's only task may be to promote and harness "distributed" mindfulness. Noticing puts us in the present, makes us sensitive to context, and aware of change and uncertainty. When we are mindless we hold our perspective still, allowing us to confuse the stability of our mindsets with the stability of the underlying phenomena. Hold it still if you want but it's changing nonetheless. However visionary we consider our leaders, they cannot predict the future any more than anyone else. They may be able to predict what might happen much of the time if the situation stays constant — which of course is questionable — but can never predict individual occurrences, which is where we should be most concerned. If, most of the time, when someone does "x" the result is "y" it doesn't guarantee that the next time you do "x," "y" will follow. (Do you believe Mercedes makes a great car? Would you bet all of your money that any particular Mercedes will start with one try?) Those in positions of power often keep quiet about what they don't know. Instead of making a personal attribution for not knowing — "I don't know but it's knowable and I probably
Post to Facebook Share on LinkedIn Print
FEATURED PRODUCTS 10 Must-Read Articles from HBR by Clayton M. Christensen, Michael Overdorf, Thomas H. Davenport, Peter F. Drucker, Daniel Goleman, Robert S. Kaplan, David P. Norton, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, John P. Kotter, Theodore Levitt, Michael E. Porter, C.K. Prahalad,Gary Hamel Buy it now » How to Get the Right Work Done by Gina Trapani, Steven DeMaio, Tony Schwartz, Catherine McCarthy, William Oncken Jr., Donald L. Wass, Stephen R. Covey Buy it now » HBR's MustReads on Managing Yourself by Peter F. Drucker, William Oncken Jr., Donald L. Wass, Stephen R. Covey, Robert E. Quinn, Robert S. Kaplan,
RECENTLY FROM IMAGINING THE FUTURE OF LEADERSHIP Leadership on the Brain APR 28 A Call for Mindful Leadership APR 28 The Abiding Tyranny of the Male Leadership Model — A Manifesto APR 27 It's Not All About You APR 26 Imagine the Future of Leadership APR 26
How I Did It: Google's CEO on the Enduring 1. Lessons of a Quirky IPO 2. Why Social Sharing Is Bigger than Facebook and Twitter 3. Rethinking the MBA 4. How Not Achieving Something Is the Key to Achieving It 5. What Trust Brings to Amazon, Zappos, and USAA
and increases creativity. the led.g. as someone I can count on. grim/serious. In sum. Catherine McCarthy. Why Not Having a Plan Can Be the Best Plan of All 8. Everyone was in a sense mindfully doing their own thing and the result was a better coordinated outcome. we've found that increasing mindfulness increases charisma and productivity. decreases burnout and accidents. Benjamin Zander Buy it now » 6. By learning how to exploit the power of uncertainty maybe all of us will wake up. The conversations generated by these posts will help shape the agenda of a symposium on the topic in June 2010.) . Tony Schwartz. In this case. being mindless meant replicating a previous performance with which they were very satisfied. Rosamund Stone Zander. positive affect. the larger issue is that. Once you understand the actor's perspective. impulsive/spontaneous. we may find talent and ability to provide solutions in those we prematurely cast in an unflattering light. It's nice to imagine a company where everyone is mindful. KEEP UP WITH HBR Follow us on Twitter » Become a Fan on Facebook » HBR on YouTube » Harvard Business Review Daily Alert Management Tip of the Day The Daily Stat Weekly Hotlist See all newsletters » (Editor's note: This post is part of a six-week blog series on how leadership might look in the future. which would allow Robert E." which sounds defensive — leaders should make universal attributions for uncertainty — "I don't know and you don't know because it is unknowable. and the company all lose.knowing — "I don't know but it's knowable and I probably should know. we need leaders whose major. (They were playing classical music and not jazz so the novel distinctions were indeed subtle. memory. The cost is that they create lemmings. Dr. you can be less judgmental. if everyone is awake. PowerPoint Is Evil. Their mindlessness promotes our own mindlessness which costs us our well being and health. We found that not only did the musicians much prefer playing mindfully. some good)." When we acknowledge these universal limits. Quinn. there is no best way to do anything independent of context. You may find that people will see what the situation demands. the leader. the mindfully played pieces were judged as superior. What Poor Countries Can Teach Rich Ones About Health Care 9. Redux 7. so the leader cannot have privileged information. Kaplan. Now What? us to get on to the problem at hand. health. Meanwhile. If I see you from your perspective. But it will take some time to achieve the ideal even if possible. attention. The Mark of a Great Leader 10. If I see you as rigid. conforming/eager to have everyone get along) and when we do we'll find we have a less rigid view of people (some bad. perhaps only task is to promote mindfulness in those around them. Leaders can't know and that's fine. When mindful we can take advantages of opportunities and avert the dangers that don't yet exist. hosted by HBS's Nitin Nohria. you don't have to lead as if everyone else needs to be led. we can be less distracted by the need to appear to know. Regardless.) Their performance was taped and then played for audiences unaware of our instructions. and the surprising result may be superior performance. Ellen Langer is a professor in the Psychology Department at Harvard University. I want to ignore you. orchestra musicians were instructed to be either mindless or mindful. In more than 30 years of research. You've Made A Mistake. Once we free ourselves from our misplaced superiority. and Scott Snook. In a study I conducted with Timothy Russell and Noah Eisenkraft. What about those being led? Mindlessless can lead you to assumptions about their behavior. When leaders keep everyone in their place with the illusion of knowability and possession of this privileged knowledge the benefit to them is that we "obey" and leaders feel superior. Rakesh Kharana. We can turn around every judgment in this way (e. This is true for the leader and the led. Being awake in the moment allows us learn better what we need to know now. and even longevity. I'll value you. The mindful instructions directed them to make the piece new in very subtle ways that only they would know. Net result. Robert S.
2010 at 2:00 PM Add a Comment Ellen. right here. . would you suggest leaders create uncertainty as a tool to create opportunities for mindfulness? What role does vision play for mindful leaders? The question is based on the unmindful idea that vision is not about the present but the future. The Alert delivers the latest blog posts from HBR. And.orgdirectly to your inbox every morning at 8:00 AM ET. Just a quick comment on the concept of "the present" and the impact of vision. 2010 at 4:15 PM Dan. Personal effectiveness Comments (5) | Join the Discussion | More by This Author | Email/Share PREVIOUS NEXT The Abiding Tyranny of the Male Leadership Model — A Manifesto Top Ten Ways to Find Joy at Work Rosabeth Moss Kanter How Not Achieving Something Is the Key to Achieving It Peter Bregman Leadership on the Brain PEOPLE WHO READ THIS ALSO READ: Choose the Fantasy World You Live In Peter Bregman Listen Well and Ask Better Questions Rye Barcott Four Ways to Attack the Castle — And Get a Job.hbr. I'm taking away two things. Or perhaps I should say from a traditional point of view. "unleadership.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb. Leadership Freak Dan Rockwell My blog: http://leadershipfreak. Managing people.cgi/7000 No trackbacks have been made to this entry. Make Change Rosabeth Moss Kanter Define Your Personal Brand With Simple Questions Ron Ashkenas Never miss a new post from your favorite blogger again with the Harvard Business Review Daily Alert email. Just as your aspirations and hopes for the future are formative for you actions. With that in mind. Your past is indeed formative for what you think and do right now." Among the things you've said. Thanks for your work on this topic and for bringing an interesting and fresh perspective on leadership.the present of the future. COMMENTS 5 Comments April 28. Get Ahead. uncertainty creates opportunities for mindfulness. you will find his beautiful reflections on the present as consisting of three parts: the present of the past . TRACKBACKS TrackBack URL for this entry: http://blogs. You have my regards. If you look up St Augustin on this.the present of the present .wordpress.More on: Leadership. Mindfulness is the ability to see new things.com — DAN (LEADERSHIP FREAK) April 28.
constituents. With regards. So thanks for the discourse on mindfulness. Chief Consciousness Officer? When an awakener is truly comfortable with uncertainty. customers. 2010 at 10:23 AM Ellen. When altruism is present the good of the whole can be ascertained and leaders can act in ways that benefit the greater needs of their employees. Dan — DAN (LEADERSHIP FREAK) April 29. The next moment is inherently uncertain. awakener.com — BETTY SHOTTON April 29. Love the quote. the ability/willingness to go beyond self in consideration of "others".liftoffleadership..— JENS HENRIKSEN April 28. That's when the led become responders and fully contribute. Altruism. sometimes dissolves.moving beyond the constraints of their ego and self preservation. I'd like to take it a step further and expand the concept of mindfulness into a discussion of the value of altruism. While she's still responsible for outcomes. 2010 at 5:39 PM Jens. okay with. Employees can take their cues from their leaders and also learn to act with an eye towards contributing to something greater than themselves. what?. Thank you! I wonder what Ellen thinks? Best. the need for hierarchy drops away. There's no lack of uncertainty. In training and coaching leaders on mindfulness.. I believe that a lack of altruism is at the core of much of the financial collapse and at the heart of the overabundance of scandal and fraud in leadership today. Betty Shotton www. I encourage them to help everyone become aware of. If I may respond to Dan's question about whether leaders should create uncertainty. Altruism used to be a respected and expected attribute of leadership. I'd like to put that term under the umbrella of altruism and get that value back into leadership discussions and incorporated as a basic requirement for anyone in a leadership position. 2010 at 10:00 AM Thank you Ellen for your thoughtfulness regarding the role of mindfulness in leadership. and energized by uncertainty. Suzanne Kryder The Mind to Lead — SUZANNE KRYDER JOIN THE DISCUSSION * Required Fields Name: * Email Address: * URL: Remember personal info? Comments: (you may use HTML tags for style) Verification (needed to reduce spam): . With gratitude. Same might be said for an ineffective congress overpopulated with self serving politicians. the superior/inferior polarity softens. When altruism is part of a leader's character they are able to elevate themselves above self interest and actually take in what is going on around them(mindfulness?). arouser. Thank you for pointing to the evolution of "leader" to.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.