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Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
Ironic Manager
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Ironic Manager

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  • 1. AMBITION IS THE LAST REFUGE OF THE FAILURE Oscar Wilde The Ironic Manager Richard J Badham Professor of Management email richard.badham@mgsm.edu.au .
  • 2. www.ironicmanager.com
  • 3. THE CONTEXT Desperately seeking ‘Enterprise’ and ‘Engagement’ yet…. • Formal Organizations: taking it out! – Organisational Esperanto and Emotional Lobotomy – Organisational Schizophrenia and Manic Depression • Greedy Institutions: forcing it back in! – McManagement and emotional engineering – Branding and the Expressive Organisation
  • 4. THE IRONIC MANAGER The IRONIC MANAGER The DELUDED MANAGER is one who: is one who: sees the organisational • misunderstands and • world for what it is, misrepresents the organisational world, • performs ineffectively, • learns to perform effectively within it, & and, ultimately, • finds meaning in this • fails to find meaning in state of affairs. this state of affairs. (S)he is the consummate (S)he is the consummate player, but a ‘serious dupe, whether serious or player’ . flippant.
  • 5. THINKING! • ‘Most men would die rather than think. Many do.’ Bertrand Russell • ‘The unexamined life is not worth living for man.” Socrates
  • 6. THE DELUDED MANAGER • THE INSTITUTIONAL IMPERATIVE “In business school I was given no hint of the imperative’s existence and I did not intuitively understand it when I entered the business world. I thought then that decent, intelligent, and experienced managers would automatically make rational business decisions. But I learned over time that isn’t so. Instead, rationality frequently wilts when the institutional imperative comes into play.” (Warren Buffet, 1989) • THE INSTRUMENTAL FALLACY “Someone who is a victim, or an example, of the instrumental attitude to management sees the people under him as the instruments with which he has to carry out his job, to execute his plans. Each has a separate role, perhaps a separate skill, and it his his job as manager to use it as a good carpenter uses his saw and chisel and plane and drill to turn the idea in his head into a final result. In the same way he sees himself as one of the instruments of his superior manager, being applied to the larger task as he applies his subordinate to the smaller one.” (Anthony Jay, 1971: 32-33)
  • 7. THE DELUDED MANAGER • The religion of rationality • The irrationality of rationality • The revenge of the non-rational
  • 8. THE IRONIC GAZE: viewing or perceiving ….one who sees the world for what it is! • Situational irony “A condition of affairs or events of a character opposite to what was, or might naturally be, expected. A contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness of things.” (Oxford English Dictionary, 1979: 484)
  • 9. THE IRONIC GAZE • ‘Expecting the unexpected’ • ‘Coping with unintended consequences’ • ‘Wrestling with ‘paradox’
  • 10. THE IRONIC GAZE: ‘Janusian’ Thinking • ‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function’ F Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack Up, 1936 • ‘The person who can’t ride two horses doesn’t deserve to be in the bloody circus’ Former TU leader
  • 11. THE IRONIC PERFORMANCE: acting or practicing ……one who can perform effectively in the world! • Verbal irony “A figure of speech in which the intended meaning is the opposite of that expressed by the words used; usually taking the form of sarcasm or ridicule in which the laudatory expressions are used to imply condemnation or contempt.” Socratic irony • ‘Dissimulation, pretence; esp. in reference to the dissimulation of ignorance practiced by Socrates as a means of confuting an adversary.” (Oxford English Dictionary, 1979: 483/4)
  • 12. THE IRONIC PERFORMANCE • Leadership and rhetoric – Irony and community a virtuoso performance – beyond ‘cheerful robots’ and ‘dragons of despair’ • Communication with multiple audiences – the ‘Wink’ or ‘I can heartily recommend the Gestapo to anyone’ (Freud)
  • 13. THE IRONIC TEMPER: living or meaning ….and finds meaning in this state of affairs! • A disposition, character or philosophic stance towards the world (an ‘ironist’). • An observer of situational irony, and a deployer of verbal and Socratic irony. • Variously viewed as humane and liberal or negative and cynical. • For some, it is an engaged ethos, a disciplined (‘tempered’) grappling with practical uncertainty and metaphysical doubt. • For others, it is a form of radical negativity or disengagement, ridiculing all beliefs and values.
  • 14. THE IRONIC TEMPER • the ‘sweet spot between arrogance and despair’ (Kanter, Rosabeth Moss, 2005, Confidence, p.13) • “Beyond the yellow brick road of naivete and the muggers lane of cynicism, there is a narrow path, poorly lit, hard to find, and even harder to stay on once found. People who have the skill and perseverance to take that path serve us in countless ways. We need more of these people. Many more.” (Kotter, John, 1985, Power and Influence, p.xx)
  • 15. THE CONTEXT: Bread and Circuses • Circuses: – Principled infidelity and the sergeant major ethos • Bread: – High velocity leadership on the edge of chaos – Mediators in a plural world
  • 16. CONCLUSION: SEEING THINGS THROUGH • Thinking things through – wrestling with ambiguity and paradox • Feeling things through – coping with ambivalence and uncertainty • Acting things through – winning a contact sport

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