‘Engaged Leaders’ or Learning Organisations?

[Go here http://christomich.glyma.co/Pages/glyma.aspx?NodeUid=a9094d7b-972f-4218-a4c8-5d90b035fe28&DomainUid=e3519bd0-21a4-445a-ac97-a6d47115adf6&MapUid=30d6ad77-b8c8-46a4-8d8a-b17e5a516f33&html5=true to see my Issue Map of Charlene’s Article]

I read an article today by Charlene Li on ‘Why No One Uses the Corporate Social Network’ and felt compelled to provide my response as a short blog post. I don’t necessarily disagree with what was written. For the most part I agree with it and feel that what was written has a lot of value to getting value from an enterprise social network. The part of find a little bit difficult to swallow is the attribution of the success of the 3 case studies to an “engaged leader” and that it takes leadership participation to get good collaborative outcomes.

My alternative perspective is that the common thread in all 3 of the case studies, as Charlene has described them, is that the leadership appreciated the importance of being a “learning organisation”. This may not have been an explicit goal for any of the leaders mentioned in the anecdotes, but their actions definitely exhibited signs of an eagerness to learn from all parts of the business on what was being done wrong and how things could be improved – and in turn the business also learns from the leader. As a result of this appreciation, these leaders were what Charlene refers to as “engaged leaders”. Charlene does mention this in her article when she provides her definition of an “engaged leader”, but I feel the importance of this “learning centric” view is somewhat downplayed by the article focusing on the “3 steps” that the leader must exhibit.

So what? It’s all the same anyway…

Not necessarily… if a leader appreciates the importance of being a learning organisation, they don’t actually have to implement the steps themselves. Requiring that the leader implement these steps creates a kind of “hero” worship and does not make for a sustainable and resilient organisation at it requires the leader to be there. If a leader appreciates the importance of developing a learning organisation and makes it an explicit and strategic goal for the organisation as a whole to move towards this model, eventually it will eventually become embedded in the business processes, outcomes, outputs etc. thus creating a far more sustainable and resilient system.

Where to next?

If none of this resonates with you at all, feel free to ignore me. If on the other hand this makes sense to you and you haven’t already read these books (these are pretty damn popular books), I totally recommend them to you as a lot of my reflections here are informed by these readings in particular. They’re a little old but still extremely relevant – there are also newer editions available.

http://www.amazon.com/Organizational-Learning-Addison-Wesley-Organization-Development/dp/0201001748

http://www.amazon.com/The-Fifth-Discipline-Practice-Organization/dp/0385517254/ref=pd_sim_b_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=023RDJZVFBB5W72QQ1K1

http://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Systems-Donella-H-Meadows/dp/1603580557/ref=pd_sim_b_1?ie=UTF8&refRID=10HQ7T0FQHAN3ZPG1ZKX

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