Living in a Change of Ages, Rather an Age of Change

Living in a Change of Ages, Rather an Age of Change

A Reflection on Leadership - Blog by Christine Bonney, one of the Managing Partners at The Acacia Group and responsible for Leadership Development and Coaching


This is the second in a series of blogs identifying how personal or corporate bias plays out in the world of CSR, Community Development and Leadership Development – the three core areas of The Acacia Group – Socially Responsible Leadership Experiences

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 11:00am


I wonder how many of us cut our leadership teeth on expressions like, “Don’t bring me your problems, bring me your solutions” and “it’s all about execution”. The days of riding in on your white horse with the one right answer are really over. Not only are horses in short supply but so is the one right answer... A friend of mine suggests that we are not so much living in an age of change but rather a change of ages. We are moving culturally from the modern era which was characterized by the machine metaphor...think industrialization, rationality, and science, to the post modern era, think imagination, intuition, and systems thinking.  

This tectonic shift has a huge impact on leadership and learning and it is little wonder that people often feel isolated, alone, and confused. If your thinking leads you to believe that the wisdom of the group is greater than the wisdom of the one, if you believe that leadership styles may need to shift with shifting contexts, and if you imagine that there are multiple right answers (less either/or and more both/and) than you are more likely a post modern leader. The good news is that this is the way of the future...yes you’re getting it, less like the Wizard of Oz and more like Dorothy. The future belongs to the wayfarer, the pilgrim, the journeyman.  The one willing to begin the voyage without all the right answers.
While many of us have started down the path to becoming a post modern leader few of us would actually say that we practice as post modern leaders.   This makes sense as much of our experience and many of our role models have been firmly rooted in the modern tradition. Michael Fullan, a renowned Canadian leadership scholar, suggests that “the two greatest failures of leaders are indecisiveness in times of urgent need for action and dead certainty that they are right in times of complexity.”
So how do we get better at challenging our own thinking while simultaneously taking action? I believe it is through the discipline of reflective practice. Reflective practice is a term first used by Donald Schon in his book, “The Reflective Practitioner”. To be reflective means to be aware of our own filters for seeing the world, to be aware of our assumptions, to take an inquiring stance toward our own effectiveness and to view all of life as an opportunity to learn. The reflective leader is learning to see in the moment everything they would see if they were able to step out of that moment and reflect.
Complex times call for complexity of mind. The post modern era requires leaders who can manage an increase in the occurrence and speed of change, who can handle greater levels of ambiguity and uncertainty and who can see the strength of diverse perspectives. It calls for reflection AND action. William Bergquist an internationally-known coach, consultant, trainer and educator defines post modern leadership as leadership that is”...effectively exerted and influential if applied at the right time, in the right place, in the right manner, and with regard to the right problem or goal.” It does not require a white horse.




Dave Harrhy
The Acacia Group
Twitter = @dharrhy