The Reconnected Leader: A book review by Bob Morris

Reconnected LeaderThe Reconnected Leader: An Executive’s Guide to Creating Responsible, Purposeful and Valuable Organizations
Norman Pickavance
KoganPage (2015)

“Get real or you’re toast.” Lancelot Fahrquart

Thinking about reconnection presupposes a previous connection. That is the approach by which Norman Pickavance frames his thoughts and feelings about how to create “responsible, purposeful and valuable organizations” by reconnecting those who lead them with new, unprecedented realities in what has become a volatile global marketplace. Executives and organizations can indeed “lose their way,” forgetting or replacing values, behaviors, and alliances that once helped them to achieve success.

I agree with Pickavance: “The tide has turned. Changes in our economic, technological and environment ecosystems have unleashed unprecedented forces, dragging society by invisible rip tides into a great sea of uncertainty. Leaders of our largest institutions increasingly cut off from what is going on around them. We are witnessing a sea change. When eras change, the choreography of events no longer follows the narrative we are accustomed to. Everything seems disjointed as we are bombarded by conflicting signals.”

What to do? How to do it? To paraphrase Buffalo Springfield:

“There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a book by Pickavance there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down”

As I began to read his book, I was again reminded of another, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, in which Bill George observes that authentic leaders are first and foremost authentic human beings. For me, this is his key point and because it seems so obvious, it may also seem simplistic. On the contrary, he has cut through all the rhetoric and urges his reader to examine her or his own core values. For most of us, that is an immensely difficult, sometimes painful experience.

It is noteworthy that, in The Inferno, Dante reserves the last and worst ring in hell for those who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. Throughout all manner of organizations, there are women and men who are authentic leaders and should be commended. The reality is, their own organizations need more of them. Indeed, all of us in our global community need more of them. In his subsequent book, Authentic Leadership, George challenges us to join their number as does Pickavance.

I agree with Pickavance that “the trust that once oiled the wheels of commerce – the trust that is the key for risks to be taken – is being drained out of the system, like oil from a gearbox. Gears that once moved smoothly now grind and grate upon each other. When trust has gone, business runs on a less efficient basis; customers never become loyal [much less ‘evangelistic’]; employees never fully commit; organizations continue to function but the creativity, passion, and joy of working together with people in a join endeavor disappear.”

As William Butler Yeats once observed in his poem, The Second Coming,

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Pickavance’s coverage through Chapter 06:

o Re-imagining leadership: A recurring phenomenon (Pages 8-14)
o A framework for “reconnected leadership” (16-19)
o Are we learning the right lessons?: Banks (28-30)
o Why competitive pressure crowds out ethical policies (33-35)
o Engineering out human connections Fragmenting performance (45-47)
o Fragmenting performance (48-53)
o The downsides of a digitally enhanced corporation (55-57)
o Introduction: The arrival of the connected era (65-67)
o The power of purpose: Are you a Mode 1 or Mode 2 organization (70-72)
o The five principles of a purpose-driven business (89-90)
o Eight steps to reconnected leadership: Purpose (95-97)
o Positioning: The six leadership practices (99-100)
o Speaking truth to power (113-116)
o Eight steps to reconnected leadership: Governance (119-121)
o Step 3: Creating reconnected cultures (125-133)
Note: This passage includes mini-case studies:

– Create: A social enterprise to help people get their lives back
– Gore-Tex
– Morning Star
– Zappos

o Connected talent environment: The power of many (136-138)
o Eight steps to reconnected leadership: workplace environment (145-149)

In this volume, Norman Pickavance provides an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that can help leaders in almost any organization – whatever its size and nature may be – to develop reconnected leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise. The eight-step process he proposes will meanwhile help to establish a workplace culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive. This book is a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

Those who share my high regard for it are urged to check out Bill George’s aforementioned True North, written with Peter Sims, as well as James O’Toole’s The Executive’s Compass and Tim Richardson’s The Responsible Leader: Developing a Culture of Responsibility in an Uncertain World.

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