Monday, June 29, 2015

Our Most Debilitating Leadership Mental Model

By Pascal Dennis

“Improvement happens when very smart people, just like me, come up with clever plans, and everybody else does what they’re told.”

That’s what I was taught in engineering and business school. Nobody call it out, we never discussed it. It was as invisible and pervasive as the air we breathed.

It took me a decade to unlearn. And I was lucky enough to have superb and patient senseis. (Always so difficult with you, Pascal-san!)

Have engineering, business and other professional schools addressed this core mental model? I doubt it.

Certainly, this way of thinking is very much alive in our organizations, both private and public, and it holds us back.

Let me suggest a different way of leading:

Improvement happens when senior leaders
  • Define Purpose clearly and compellingly,
  • Define our ‘design space’ (the banks of the river),
  • Create an atmosphere conducive to creativity and initiative,
  • Check in regularly,
  • Reduce hassles wherever possible, and otherwise stay out of the way, and
  • Say thank you

This is uncomfortable for many leaders, and threatening for some.

But is there any other way?

Best regards,


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