Leading for the greater good
I am conscious that for a long time, as a result of my perspective on leadership, on the importance of leaders’ accountability for the greater good, I was considered a Pollyanna. I was often told I was unrealistic, not tough enough, unaware of the realities of commercial leadership, a ‘Pollyanna.’
The name Pollyanna actually derives from a novel called Pollyanna (Eleanor Porter, 1913) which is about a girl who plays the ‘glad game,’ trying to find something to be glad about in every situation. In the 70s the word was used in psychological literature to describe a universal tendency to use positive words more frequently (and with greater variety) to evaluate something than negative words.
Today, I don’t think I am a Pollyanna, and that is not the result of changing my perspective. I think leaders are increasingly aware of their responsibility for the greater good, albeit challenged by the frequent psychological conflict they face when their sense of the greater good is at odds with their personal KPIs, the need to return a result this quarter, the over-focus on short term goals at the expense of the long term.
I watched a great TED talk last night, about the importance of reason as a means of arriving at the ‘right’ conclusion, as a leader. We think our way through complex issues, weigh in the balance of all the variables, and reach a reasoned conclusion.
I am not so sure that reason always helps. Sometimes logic can flawlessly take us to a questionable conclusion. I do believe, however, that our empathy for our fellow man has expanded radically (also in this TED talk), and that may be our saving grace. We are not our ancestors, who once burnt cats for entertainment, or competed with other lords to see how many slaves could be captured or killed.
Good leaders care about people, and the consequence of their choices on the world at large, and I do believe that good leaders are on the rise.
Pollyanna or no, it seems we may survive our own evolution.
Written by Fabian Dattner, Partner Dattner Grant
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