Positive Leadership - Ruth Seliger - ebook

Positive Leadership ebook

Ruth Seliger

159,99 zł


The idea of management and organisation that has been developed in the days of industrialisation fails in the light of dynamic social and technological developments. Positive Psychology and Systemic Thinking induce new concepts: leadership based on power, leading and developing organisational energy, using self-organisation. In daily leadership practice these concepts stand for excellent performance, job satisfaction and meaningfulness. The first part of this book describes the principles of the "revolution in leadership": The author presents management-related results, models and tools of Positive Psychology and explains the three principles of integrated work (meaning, power, impact). On this basis she creates a suitable image of leadership and develops the principles of Positive Leadership. The second part addresses the practical implementation of Positive Leadership in real-life leadership situations and refers in detail to the three central areas of Positive Leadership: self-management, employee management, management of organisations. For all three areas the reader is provided with theoretically substantiated and proven-in-practice management tools. Additionally, many case studies from the work of the author exemplify the amazing effect of Positive Leadership.

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ImpressumPreamblePart 1: Conceptual and methodological foundations1. The paradigm shift1.1 The worldview of modernity1.2 The transition to postmodernism1.3 We are witnessing the emergence of a new paradigm - fortunately!1.4 The paradigm shift in management1.4.1 Society in flux1.4.2 Organisations in flux1.4.3 Leadership in flux1.5 Conclusion2. Theoretical foundations of Positive Leadership2.1 Systemic thinking2.1.1 Cybernetics2.1.2 Constructivism2.1.3 Systems theory2.1.4 Systemic thinking and leadership2.2 Positive psychology and happiness research2.2.1 Why do we need emotions?2.2.2 The significance of positive emotions2.2.3 Happiness research2.3 Brain research2.3.1 Emotions and intellect cannot be separated2.3.2 Our brains learn to learn2.3.3 Our brains are self-organising2.3.4 Our brains are “social”2.3.5 Our brains “make sense”2.3.6 Brain research and leadership2.4 New economics2.4.1 Competing schools of thought2.4.2 Economics and happiness2.4.3 Economics and emotion3. What is “positive leadership”?3.1 What does “positive” mean?3.1.1 The positive is what is “real”3.1.2 The positive is now3.1.3 The positive is “normal”3.1.4 The positive is “valuable”3.2 What does “leadership” mean?3.2.1 The meaning of leadership3.2.2 The tests of leadership3.3 A positive image of work3.3.1 Definition: Work3.3.2 “Alienated work”3.3.3 The birth of Scientific Management3.3.4 Lean Production and the Toyota model3.3.5 Knowledge as a central productive force3.4 Organisational energy3.4.1 What is energy?3.4.2 Measuring organisational energy: The energy matrix3.5 The three positive principles: Sense, confidence, and influence3.5.1 Positive principle #1: Meaning3.5.2 Positive principle #2: Confidence3.5.3 Positive principle #3: Influence3.6 Conclusion4. Central instruments and concepts of positive leadership4.1 Solution-oriented questioning: entering the realm of solutions4.1.1 Problems – do they exist?4.1.2 A solution-focussed approach instead of “problem hypnosis”4.1.3 A solution-focussed approach to management4.2 Appreciative Inquiry: Radical resource orientation4.2.1 The roots of Appreciative Inquiry4.2.2 Philosophy and attitude4.2.3 The AI interview4.2.4 The AI process of change4.3 Large groups: All together now!4.3.1 Different formats4.3.2 The “whole system” in one room4.3.3 Areas of application4.4 POS – Positive Organizational Scholarship and positive deviation4.4.1 Positive deviation as a new method of measurement4.4.2 Positive deviation and leadership4.5 Strengths-based Leadership4.6 Flow4.6.1 The eight components of flow4.6.2 The art of positive leadership4.7 ConclusionPart 2: Positive Leadership in practice5. The three dimensions of leadership5.1 Leading oneself5.2 Leading people5.3 Leading the organisation6. Leading oneself positively6.1 Becoming an efficient leader6.2 Positive self-reflection6.3 Instruments of positive reflection for the person6.4 Instruments of positive reflection on a leadership role6.5 Instruments of positive reflection on your own work6.6 Out of the box!7. Leading people positively7.1 Introduction7.2 Creating positive communication7.2.1 Reflect on your image of your employees!7.2.2 Consciously shape your behaviour!7.3 Mobilising energy: provide meaning!7.3.1 Provide meaning by encouraging self-reflection7.3.2 Provide meaning by means of the “bigger picture” of work7.3.3 Create a positive vision of the future7.3.4 Provide meaning by way of qualitative goals7.4 Focussing resources: Create confidence!7.4.1 Spread confidence by providing impulses for positive self-reflection7.4.2 Select employees on the basis of their strengths – not their position7.4.3 Support the performance process7.4.4 Support problem-solving processes!7.5 Give and exert influence!7.5.1 Decisions and power as a medium of leadership7.5.2 Positive direct communication7.5.3 Positive organised communication7.5.4 Positive informal communication7.5.5 Give influence! Be demanding of your employees! Empower them!7.5.6 Delegation – involvement – empowerment7.6 Conclusion8 Leading an organisation positively – creating positive organisations8.1 Positive images of organisations8.2 The meaning of organisations8.2.1 Satisfying needs and solving problems8.2.2 Contribute to society8.2.3 Survival8.2.4 Characteristics of positive organisations8.3 Creating positive organisations: Organisational design8.3.1 Organisational design as a leadership task8.3.2 Developing your own organisational design8.3.3 The organisational design process in 10 steps8.4 Designing the change process: Positive change8.4.1 Change as a process of organisational learning8.4.2 Positive change as a learning journey8.4.3 Important stages of the change process8.4.4 Road map for sustainable change8.5 Leadership designs itself: Developing positive leadership8.5.1 Meaning and values of leadership: Create a mission statement for leadership8.5.2 The end of lonesome heroes – team work and lateral cooperation8.6 Conclusion9. Implementing positive leadership effectively: Nothing good will happen unless you do it yourself9.1 Appreciation and limitations of positive leadership9.2 Energy check9.3 Inspiration for your implementation9.3.1 Three premises for leadership learning9.3.2 Design your personal learning processReferencesThe author


Bibliografische Information der

Deutschen Nationalbibliothek

Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet über http://dnb.d-nb.de abrufbar.

ISBN 978-3-7910-3843-8, Bestell-Nr. 10202-0100

Dieses Werk einschließlich aller seiner Teile ist urheberrechtlich geschützt. Jede Verwendung außerhalb der engen Grenzen des Urheberrechtsgesetzes ist ohne Zustimmung des Verlages unzulässig und strafbar. Das gilt insbesondere für Vervielfältigungen, Übersetzungen, Mikroverfilmungen und die Einspeicherung und Verarbeitung in elektronischen Systemen.

© 2017 Schäffer-Poeschel Verlag für Wirtschaft · Steuern · Recht GmbHTitel der Originalausgabe: „Positive Leadership. Die Revolution der Führung“, Schaeffer-Poeschel Verlag, Stuttgart [email protected]

Einbandgestaltung: Kienle gestaltet, StuttgartGrafiken: Robert Six Design: [email protected] Übersetzung: A.C.T. Fachübersetzungen GmbHMärz 2017

Schäffer-Poeschel Verlag StuttgartEin Tochterunternehmen der Haufe Gruppe


“Positive Leadership is a powerful tool. As a manager, I am responsible for making good use of it. But I have no other means to lead my team to success.”

Wolfgang Braunböck is the Senior HR Director at Oracle. He leads an international team of approximately 45 employees in Eastern Europe, Russia, Turkey, Israel, and Africa.

Several years ago, Wolfgang Braunböck visited a training course on Positive Leadership which I was organising. Afterwards, he started implementing the principles of Positive Leadership consistently in his growing team.

“At first, it was a culture shock for me. School makes you focus on errors quite relentlessly. You are always bad at things and need to get better. It took me a long time to pay attention to strengths instead. I have started to look at what matches my own strengths. And now, I am doing the same with my employees.”

Wolfgang Braunböck’s employees say that communication in the team has become more open and there is a greater amount of trust. Especially the younger employees from the former “Eastern Bloc” are prepared to go that extra mile if they feel appreciated.

“It was an eye-opener for me when I realised I had to change my way of communicating. Communication is the key factor. It took time at first, but it paid off.”

Wolfgang Braunböck selects employees on the basis of their strengths; he promotes lateral cooperation within and among the regions he manages. He organises his division around the strengths of his team. With his 32 direct reports, he regularly exchanges views on the bigger picture of the organisation and their common tasks. He bases his decisions on the following principles:

•Continuity and reliability / consistency

•Transparency and comprehensibility

•Trust / no micro-management

A large network of managers has formed around him; its establishment would have been impossible without Positive Leadership.

And Positive Leadership has changed him personally, too:

“I have become more open, more positive. I feel a lot more confident.”

My journey into the wide world of Positive Leadership started in May 2000. The two founders of Appreciative Inquiry, David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney, first presented their approach to the world in Europe during a five-day workshop attended by roughly 100 consultants from all over the globe. I remember spending three of the five days very sceptical: rose-tinted glasses, typical American white-washing, not systemic, one-sided optimism. Where was the balance?

But on the fourth morning, my head was suddenly bursting with new ideas. All of a sudden, I could think of thousands of opportunities to use this approach effectively. I was full of energy, optimism, and drive.

Back at work, I immediately started combing through my old concepts and documents and revising everything. My language changed, my work changed. It became lighter and more effective.

In 2007, I flew to the US to attend a large congress organised by David Cooperrider, who gathered “the field” together for the first time: Martin Seligman, the “father” of positive psychology, Marcus Buckingham, one of the designers of “strength-based management”, and many practitioners presented their concepts and experiences. I had the opportunity to introduce one of my own projects during a workshop. The congress made me realise that something great was happening here – greater than Appreciative Inquiry. Renowned universities all over the world have been researching this topic for years; a lot has been published and implemented. The notion of a radical use of resources is growing and developing. A new movement has emerged – a large, new field. It is a change in paradigm that is taking place in all fields of science and practice and finding its way into organisations and management levels.

For my “Jungle Book of Leadership”, I attached great importance to introducing a clearly structured model for systemic leadership. The topic of Positive Leadership was only mentioned very briefly at the end of the book, however – a pointer indicating that there is a lot more to say still. In this book, I carry on where my Jungle Book stopped.

This book is an opportunity for me to provide a detailed introduction into the broad field of Positive Leadership. It is a journey to the many roots, concepts, and instruments that come with a new understanding of leadership and organisations. It is based on a new worldview and a new idea of what it means to be human – beyond morality, but within an ethical framework.

For me, Positive Leadership is a systematic developmental stage of systemic thinking as applied to leadership. The systemic principles and fundamental assumptions, the image of humans and the world, the understanding of organisation all constitute the basis for Positive Leadership. Positive Leadership is neither flowery nor esoteric. It is a path that shows how leadership will shape the organisations of the future.

Just as I did in my Jungle Book, I promise not to talk about a lot of new things here. Many of my readers will already be familiar with a lot of the thoughts and instruments presented in this work. The book is an attempt to provide an interested audience with an overview of the tendencies that influence the field of Positive Leadership and to consolidate the many aspects and ideas of the notion that has become known as “Positive Leadership”. It raises no claim to completeness.

I am a down-to-earth practitioner of the theory. Over the course of the past years, I have explored the field in greater depth, developed methods and concepts, and passed on the virus of positivity to many people and organisations. First of all, I infected my own consultancy firm, which has since specialised in this approach in the context of leadership and change management. In my courses, I have led managers to the “positive” path. Increasing numbers of organisations asked me and my institute to align their courses to the concept of positive leadership. Our work in the field of processes is oriented consistently towards the principles of Positive Leadership.

This is what my book is about. It is intended to encourage its readers to take action. The largest section of the book offers a wide range of practical case studies that illustrate how the methods of Positive Leadership were implemented, and what results they achieved.

By writing this book, I wish to introduce managers and consultants to the topic of “Positive Leadership” and familiarise them with it. I wish to prompt them to consider a new approach to leadership, organisation, and change. You are warmly encouraged to copy, be inspired, or simply become curious.

My personal passion for the Positive Leadership approach is rooted in a very particular hope: that treating ourselves and the world with appreciation and respect may cause positive change in both. Leadership plays a particularly significant role here, and it carries great opportunities.

I would not have been able to write this book without help. Many people have contributed to its completion: Matthias zur Bonsen, with whom I share a long history of cooperation and who has brought David Cooperrider and Diana Whitney to Riccione (Italy), David and Diana themselves, as they have been invaluable teachers and guides to me, my colleague Christof Schmitz, who continuously gives me new impulses and keeps his eye on the topic with me, my colleagues in my company, who have been working with me on the development of this topic and field for many years, and last, but not least, my customers, who have become so enthusiastic about this topic. They have offered me opportunities to learn, try out the concept and its instruments in practice, and develop it further.

Vienna, March 2017.Ruth Seliger

Part 1:Conceptual and methodological foundations

1. The paradigm shift

»For two thousand years, humanity has believed that the sun and all of the stars of heaven turned around it. The Pope, the cardinals, the princes,

the scholars, captains, merchants, fishwives, and pupils believed

that they were sitting inside this crystal sphere, motionless.

But now we emerge, Andrea, at full speed.

The olden days are over, and a new time has come.«

Bertolt Brecht: Galileo Galilei1

A Paradigm is a comprehensive view of the world that is prevalent within a society and determines the thought and action of its people. Paradigms are composed of a multitude of assumptions, explanations and principles, which we use for orientation on a daily basis. This is how paradigms guide our thought and our emotion, our perceptions and explanations, and – above all – the behaviour of the people who make up a society. They are passed down from generation to generation, connecting people within a “paradigmatic community” sharing a view of the world that is never questioned. A paradigm is like the grammar of a language: you do not think about it, yet you use it; you think and speak with it and in it. It is difficult to recognise a paradigm – it is a blind spot, and we normally only notice it when it changes.

Paradigms predominantly consist of explanatory models of the world, which are enshrined deeply inside our collective consciousness. We only abandon them when they reach a limit and, thus, lose their primary explanatory function to humankind, or when they are replaced with more recent insights. The paradigm of the Middle Ages and the Catholic Church, for instance, which claimed that the Earth was the centre of the universe, was only invalidated and ousted from its predominant position as the natural science developed and we became capable of observing planets through telescopes.

We are at such a turning point today.

And like most major processes of change, this present paradigm shift brings different speeds, conflicts, and crises with it. We are experiencing this critical flux in different forms and with different contents: as a financial crisis, a crisis of democracy or trust, social disintegration and a widespread crisis of values, an ecological crisis, or a social crisis. Experts have long been speaking of a “systemic” crisis: all of these crises are closely interconnected; they affect one another and cannot be solved in isolation.

Anyone following the media coverage diligently enough may well become overwhelmed with this “crisis hypnosis” and be driven to despair. But we would not be speaking of a “shift” if the “crisis” and the “dying paradigm” had given rise to the first signs of a new worldview, a new understanding of what it means to be human and live a human life – notions that are slowly gaining momentum.

Jeremy Rifkin, brilliant mastermind and political consultant, has interpreted our era as the “third industrial revolution”.

“We are in the middle of a far-reaching change of social structures that is dismantling hierarchies in favour of a lateral distribution of power.”2

We can interpret Rifkin’s words as a 90-degree rotation of our worldview: from a vertical (hierarchic) to a horizontal (cooperative) order, but also as a shift from a differentiating to an integrative worldview. Having turned your point of view by 90 degrees, it is easy to visualise how extensively our world is changing.

Such profound changes take time, and they are terrifying. But do not worry – we have done this before. The paradigm shift currently underway is not the first of its kind, and it will not be the last.

1.1 The worldview of modernity

A look back in history will show us that such processes are a part of human society. Each of us know that the world has changed over the centuries; nevertheless, we believe that things will remain as they are, that our worldview will prevail. And we collectively forget the crises that accompanied earlier paradigm shifts.

Our current paradigm is characterised by the scientific-technological worldview of “modernity”, i.e. of the 15th and 16th centuries: an era that ended one thousand and five hundred years of dominance of the Catholic Church over the (European) world, replacing it with insights from the new sciences and technology. When Galileo Galilei gazed through a telescope in 1610, observing the motion of the planets and recognising that it was, in fact, the Earth that turns around the sun and not vice versa, the ecclesiastical worldview of the Earth as the centre of the universe suddenly collapsed. But it took many more centuries and battles until this paradigm was finally buried once and for all.

From this point, not only the paradigm of the Earth-centric universe collapsed – the new worldview changed considerably more. It was the beginning of the dominion of science as the driving force behind our explanation of the world. The renunciation of “faith” and its replacement with a scientific view of the world, referred to as “knowledge”, was a paradigmatic earthquake. Brecht leaves the description of this shift to Galileo Galilei:

“A great enthusiasm has emerged to explore the origin of all things: why the stone drops when it is released, and how it rises when it is thrown. New discoveries are made by the day.”3

After centuries of dominance by the Church and its faith, physics, mathematics, and technology ultimately assumed the leading role in the conceptualisation of the world. These disciplines examined it with a “factual”, “objective” approach; humanity attempted to understand the world in rational terms by observing it, cutting it into small pieces, analysing the pieces, and finally putting them back together. Increasingly powerful technological possibilities were developed in order to investigate increasingly minuscule elements of our world. This was based on the assumption of an ultimate core element that needed to be found and discovered in order for us to understand the bigger picture that makes up our universe.

New values emerged: rationality, reason, and logic became the decisive foundation of the new worldview and the new social principles. Simultaneously, the methodology of scientific research became a part of our worldview and our reality.

Its differentiating and dividing, lacerating and reassembling, its precise examination of all parts of a whole still constitute the basis of our approach to the world, to problems, to solutions.

Our world has been designed around those notions: science has been divided into faculties specialising in their own topics of research. Knowledge has been divided into “subjects”, learning at school into units of fifty minutes. Our hospitals have become departments for individual components of the human body, our work processes are clearly separated, our lives are split neatly into work and life, and we must strive to “balance” the two at all costs. We have created a world of “objectivity” and “differentiation”, and we are surrounded by it on a daily basis; it permanently reflects and confirms our thought processes. It is no longer imaginable that the world could be, or become, different.

The primary function of every paradigm is, on the one hand, to provide us with explanations for the great questions of our time: How did the world come into being? Where do we all go? Its second use is to simplify the world for us and portray it in a more accessible light. Much like the medieval paradigm, the worldview of modernity was aimed at simplification and the reduction of complexity in order to give humans guidance. Science was to provide explicit, clear insights and objective truths, which had been the domain of the Church until then. The idea emerged that it was possible to observe the world as an “objective item”, i.e. an object that was independent of its observer, and make statements about it. The “truth” of the Church was therefore confronted with a new, “scientific truth”.

This new “faith” in “objectiveness”, in “reason” and “the one, singular truth” has remained part of our culture to the present day. It dominates our science, our worldview, our actions, our values.

The core motivation of science, however, was its attempt to predict the future by means of “comprehension” in order to ultimately control the world.

“Newton’s laws of celestial mechanics and Descartes’ coordinates, which enabled scientists to imagine the world as a vast network, gave rise to the impression that everything was explicable in mathematical and mechanical terms. At the time of Napoleon, the French physicist Pierre Laplace could seriously imagine that scientists might one day find a single mathematical equation that would be powerful enough to explain everything.”4

The paradigm of modernity, like that of the Catholic Middle Ages, was rooted in the idea of a stable world order. It was this notion that allowed science to formulate new, apparently eternally applicable “laws of nature” and embark on a quest for a “world formula” that would explain everything.

Our capacity for differentiating and analysing, which is supported by increasingly powerful technologies, has heightened our awareness since the beginning of modernity and greatly enhanced our knowledge of the world. Unfortunately, however, our love for discernment has also made us lose sight of contexts. Simultaneously, the paradigm of modernity has brought us the illusion of an “objective truth” and led us to believe that we can simplify a complex world. The central elements of the scientific-technological paradigm are based on “doctrines”:

•the possibility of understanding the world by means of observation and analysis, for instance,

•or the idea that we can make “objective” statements about it,

•the notion of a rigid world order that is reflected in the laws of nature,

•the concept of unequivocal sequences of cause and effect as an explanatory model for all of life’s processes, and finally,

•the belief in a hierarchical structure of the world, ranging from its most primitive creatures to the supreme being (God).

These assumptions have been all but uprooted over the past decades. Today, we are dealing with a degree of complexity that does not tolerate such simplifications. Attempts to disentangle complicated matters in this way tend to fail nowadays.

1.2 The transition to postmodernism

Surprisingly, the shift from the scientific to the new, postmodern paradigm was initiated by those sciences that had caused the former: physics and mathematics.

The natural sciences worked on the assumption of a stable, predictable, analysable worldview. Newton’s laws illustrate this approach:

“Any object in a state of uniform motion remains in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it; the acceleration of a moving object is directly proportional to the force applied to it, and it will follow the uniform direction in which the force is applied; for every action, there is an equal and opposite re-action.”5

The French mathematician Henri Poincaré questioned Newton’s law of universal gravitation – a linear equation with which to calculate the orbit of the Moon around the Earth – by introducing an additional variable that could impact on this orbit, such as the influence of the Sun. He proved that the mere addition of one single variable rendered Newton’s equations insoluble: it only worked under stable, reduced conditions (two factors). This “discovery” shook the foundations of traditional physics and mathematics. It soon became clear that our world was unpredictable once we introduced further variables: their reciprocal effects could no longer be calculated with any degree of certainty.

“Poincaré had thrown an anarchistic bomb into Newton’s model of the solar system, threatening to blow it up. If these strange, chaotic paths were truly there, the entire solar system would be unstable.”6

Poincaré’s discovery changed science completely and became the kindling for what we refer to as the paradigm of “postmodernism” today (we can only hope to find a better name eventually).

“Poincaré revealed that chaos or the potential for chaos is a characteristic of non-linear systems, and that even a completely pre-determined system such as that of the orbiting planets can produce uncertain results. He had caught a glimpse of a simple system transitioning to shocking levels of complexity in an explosive process.”7

Poincaré’s work became the foundation and cornerstone of modern quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of relativity. Ultimately, Heisenberg’s famous uncertainty principle radically questioned the possibility of measuring “reality” in its entirety: his research showed that light sometimes appeared to consist of particles, sometimes of waves, depending of the observation conditions.

But the scientific-technological paradigm left a deep impact on the world and our way of thinking. Gerald Hüther, neurobiologist, explains:

“What started at the beginning of the Age of Enlightenment as an epiphany about the possibility of investigating orderly, natural relationships and, as a result, shaping the living environment around us has become a key element of our self-perception. We are convinced that we can comprehend the external world and mould it according to our ideas. But now that we have discovered, exploited, and largely exhausted scores of natural resources, deciphered the genome, split the most minuscule particles, and illuminated the cosmos all the way back to the Big Bang, we are slowly realising that we might require a second age of enlightenment, so to speak, if we wish to solve the problems which we have brought upon ourselves by using raw reason only, and to which we are exposed on a daily basis thanks to the global means of communication available to us today.”8

This “second age of enlightenment”, the new paradigm, will quite probably feature phenomena of network, integration, and interconnection; it will illuminate new approaches to complexity and opportunities for accepting our world as a living organism full of unpredictability and surprise.

1.3 We are witnessing the emergence of a new paradigm - fortunately!

“We need a revolution in academia, with every social science attempting to understand the causes of happiness. We also need a revolution in government. Happiness should become the goal of policy, and the progress of national happiness should be measured and analysed as closely as the growth of GDP.”9

The author of this quote is not a Buddhist monk or New-Age spiritualist. The above statement was made by an economist at the London School of Economics. The time for change is now. But the old images are still deeply enshrined within our minds. How are new images made?

Every major social transition is born of two impulses:

1.the impulse of thinking – i.e. of theory and knowledge, which bring new insights – and

2.concrete opportunities for creating a new reality around us.

When knowledge and opportunity combine, it becomes possible to change the world. Our present paradigm shift has emerged from those two sources. We have a new understanding of the world and new technologies for solving the problems that we have caused as a result of the paradigm of modernity. This challenge is reflected in Einstein’s famous quote about our inability to solve our problems with the same logic that created them: we can only master our “crises” if we simultaneously learn to think differently.

Every epoch has its leading science. Antiquity had philosophy, the medieval period had theology, modernity had the natural sciences and technology. Today is the heyday of neuroscience, complexity theories, communications research. It is the age of research into living systems.

Many different factors have brought about the reorientation of the sciences over the course of the past years: technological possibilities, for instance, have allowed us to embark on neuroscientific research. We have become capable of watching the brain at work, which has provided us with an entire spectrum of new revelations. In addition, the increasing number of ecological problems has directed the attention of scientists to the sensitive balance of nature, which has helped biology become one of the new leading disciplines. The growing complexity in our society has established chaos theory, collective intelligence, and complexity research as new academic fields. In the meantime, our “real” world has been undergoing dramatic changes: new communication technologies and the internet have brought fundamental change to our lives, our ways of working, and our approaches to management and leadership.

Rifkin therefore speaks of a “third industrial revolution”10 that is transforming a lot more than just our way of life. It is causing a paradigm shift: a radical upheaval in our ways of thinking, of feeling.

Today’s paradigm shift is taking place both on a cognitive, ethical, and conceptual level and on the real, concrete level of action. It is therefore not surprising that increasing numbers of authors use the term “revolution”.11

1.4 The paradigm shift in management

Management is always a product of its contemporary social paradigm, integrated into the thought processes of its time. Positive Leadership is part of the new paradigm. When we engage with the new leadership paradigm, we are speaking of leadership in the context of organisations which are, in turn, integrated into society. Images of leadership are always closely connected with images of society and the or­g­a­ni­sations in which leadership takes place. The three terms are, therefore, intrinsically linked. (see figure 1)

Fig. 1

1.4.1 Society in flux

It is almost platitudinous to observe that our world is changing dramatically and, above all, rapidly. Trend researchers and futurologists12 have been arriving at similar conclusions about the major trends of society for many years, thereby demonstrating universal challenges that we must all face. A number of key driving forces are behind these challenges.

On the one hand, these key driving forces include new technological possibilities of communication, which have “democratised” information. They are complemented, on the other hand, by the great, modern migration of humans, organisations, and capital along with the phenomena of internationalisation, globalised economies, and the scope of business ventures.

These innovations are causing an entirely new perception of the world.

•Time and space are losing their meaning; we have become able to communicate across continents in real time.

•The questions of social belonging and identity are undergoing dramatic changes.

•Power is anonymised: “the markets” are dictating politics, while the old, hierarchical world order has been replaced by a functional differentiation of society.

All of this is taking place in a context of environmental problems, uncertainties of governance and decision-making, and new axes of conflict such as the tension between conservative Islam and the west. In addition, financial crises are plaguing the saturated western markets, while developing countries are emerging as players in the world economy. This is the environment in which modern organisations must find their bearings.

1.4.2 Organisations in flux

The developments outlined above pose completely new challenges to organisations and their leaders by radically questioning traditional concepts and virtues of management, on the other hand, and the image of organisations and cooperation, on the other hand. Especially the necessity for mobility, adaptability, and a readiness for constant change and renewal forces organisations to embrace new concepts of living and leading.

Vital questions must be answered:

•How to keep up with the speed at which developments and changes are progressing?

•How to ensure that employees who have crucial knowledge and expertise stay in our organisation?

•How to create loyalty in customers who have such a wide range of choices?

•How can we shape the identity of our organisation and communicate it across the entire planet?

•How do we handle the human desire for meaning, happiness, and values?

•What are the fundamental changes that will affect the nature of work? Are we prepared?

•How can we contribute to the well-being of our society and the environment?

•How do we support older employees?

•How do we best handle the complexities and dynamics that surround us?

•How can we achieve long-term success?

Organisations as we know them today have their roots in the military – specifically, in the Roman army, which became the role model of the Catholic Church and, eventually, of industrial enterprises. Clear, rigid structures, a high level of stability, and a strictly controlled communication and decision-making structure ensured the longevity of these organisations. During the early stages of industrialisation, these organisational models were simply copied and applied to the new production facilities. While this may have been the result of a lack of imagination and alternatives, it is more likely that it was rooted in a set of values corresponding to the scientific ethos of modernity and the authoritarian culture of the 19th century. And yet: the Roman army failed to stop the disintegration of the Roman Empire, and the Catholic Church also appears to be edging closer to its own collapse as a consequence of its internal contradictions and its rigidity. The Tayloristic concept of “scientific management”, popularised during the beginning of industrialisation in the United States, established itself in this type of organisation and gave it a “scientific” basis. It aimed to increase the efficiency of work by “dismantling and reassembling” work processes. At the same time, the prevalent paradigm considered leadership to be a “command-and-control” process, which fit perfectly into the military conceptualisation of organisations. This included a view of mankind that regarded employees as incompetent, unmotivated, lazy creatures (children, tributaries) who required, even deserved this type of leadership. These attitudes were well placed in an economic environment that had been stable, predictable, and rigidly oriented towards growth for many years. In that world, change was an exception and deemed disruptive.

A number of assumptions shaped the images of organisation and leadership that were prevalent during the epoch of industrialisation – assumptions which remain familiar to the present day:

•Hierarchy: Those at the “top” think, while those at the “bottom” do – because those at the “top” are smarter.

•Both organisation and people can only work if leadership comes from “above”; nothing happens without an external impetus.

•Organisations and their inherent processes work like well-lubricated machines, many cogs in a smoothly running wheel.

•Work is most efficient when it is divided in many separate units and tasks that do not overtax the individual (stupid) workers.

•Communication, relationships, and emotions are disturbances to the organisation; they must be controlled and, ideally, eliminated. At best, communication is a one-way street: the issuance of orders.

•Process can be controlled in a linear fashion, for instance by observing the management control circuit.

•Given sufficiently stable conditions, organisations can always be optimised a little further.

Even though our world has changed dramatically over the past centuries and has become more complex, more dynamic, and a great deal more unpredictable, these archaic organisations and leadership ideas are still predominant. Major industrial corporations, in particular, are still organised in this way, but even modern technology businesses employ the structures of the past.

The shift has been around for years

As early as the 1980s, the organisational theorist Karl E. Weick researched and described the complexity of organisations. His theories radically challenged the prevailing ‘mechanical’ paradigm.13 A few years later, Arie de Geus wrote about the responsibilities of companies14, effectively casting new light on the concept of organisations. Harvard professor Chris Argyris15 even attributes a certain “learning capacity” to organisations. By coining the notion of the “learning organisation”, he made a considerable contribution to the emergence of new views on organisations. Peter Senge speaks of a “necessary revolution”16 in the face of our rapidly changing world. Today, the concept of “organisation design” is used to describe new methods of structuring organisations on the basis of principles.17

Vanguard organisations

Organisational theory is not the only new stream emerging in the literature on leadership: new ways of implementing innovative concepts and principles are increasingly featured, too. The American consultant Rosabeth Moss Kanter18 cites numerous case studies of organisations that have embarked on new paths to greater success, innovation, and responsibility. She has dubbed them “vanguard organisations”19, pioneers of a new trend.

One of the most intensely discussed companies of the new generations is Gore.

Case study: Gore as a next-generation company

Imagine the following scenario:

The hierarchy is extremely flat. It is only modified on a situational, temporary basis. The organisation consists of a network of teams that communicate directly with each other.

Leaders are elected – and unelected – by “foot voting”. They are forced to find their followers and prove their worth on an ongoing basis. “If you summon a meeting and people show up, you are a leader.”20

Leaders can only prove its worth through performance and contributions to the success of the company. Their role is to support, not to order and control.

Communication takes place directly between individuals or teams. There are no formalised communication channels.

Unit sizes are therefore limited to a scope that facilitates this direct communication. When units grow beyond 150–200 members, the “cells” must divide.

Approximately 10 % of working hours are used for the development of new ideas, i.e. for “unproductive” activities: thinking, experimenting, exchanging views.

Personnel management lies with the employees themselves. There are no assessment processes: instead, the teams choose their new colleagues autonomously. No standardised career paths and promotion routines exist. Salaries are based on the contribution of each individual member to the success of the organisation.

The company culture is determined by four fixed principles: fairness, freedom, commitment, consultation.21

And, of course: the company is extremely successful and profitable, and its employees identify with their company completely.

You have reached Gore. Gore – known from the Gore-Tex brand – has become a model company for innovative management, and the relevant literature continuously raves about its success.22

The company was founded by Wilbert (Bill) L. Gore in 1958. Today, it is highly successful with an annual revenue of approximately 3 billion USD and 10,000 employees in 45 locations around the world.

W. L. Gore had a specific vision when he started his business: he wanted to establish a company “where imagination and initiative would flourish, where chronically curious engineers would be free to invent, invest, and succeed.”23

Gore abandoned all common dogmas about “modern” management and created an organisation with the characteristics described above.

Gore is only one of many members of an avant-garde of organisations that have been exploring new paths with great success. Google, IBM, and dm are also among the examples that keep reappearing in the relevant literature.24 We have become familiar with a large number and variety of organisations that present real, successful alternatives to the archaic type of organisation.

Some of these new organisations are based on new values and principles: the shoe delivery service Zappos25, for instance, which has placed joy and fun during work at the centre of its company culture, or Southwest Airlines, whose management considers its good relationship with their employees as a key principle, which has proven very successful. Others have developed new structures, including Google and network organisations such as Gore; still others have embarked on different strategies. Svenska Handelsbanken, for example, has abandoned the budget ritual in its entirety.26

These avant-garde organisations grant us an insight into future developments, which will become inevitable for the sustained success of any organisation.

As early as 1997, Arie de Geus27 engaged with the question of how to achieve sustainable success for businesses. He researched a large number of organisations, some of which were several centuries old, and based his evaluation on the view that organisations are living systems, or rather: working communities. They “function” by the same rules as other living organisms.

“By imagining a company as a living being, we are taking the first step towards increasing its life expectancy.”28

The research carried out by Moss Kanter proves the success of these new organisations, which constitute “a new paradigm for business”29. They are role models for future organisations. Moss Kanter recommends that we observe them and learn

•»how to build an enduring culture for the long term that enables continual change and renewal, as well as rapid response to crisis

•how to use values and principles as a guidance system, for self- and peer control

•how every step of the innovation process can be enhanced by a strong social purpose and connections with society

•how humanistic approaches can smooth the tensions of mergers and create productive new collaborations