From leadership to stewardship


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Working paper & presentation to 2nd Annual CAPPA Conference in Public Management, Ryerson University, Toronto, May 27-28th, 2013. This paper looks at leadership as a mechanism for social coordination - an outdated one - that is failing to generate followers due to a growing perception that leaders are either unethical or ineffective or both. In its place the author suggests another mechanism, stewardship, and outlines a process-based stewardship to use as a means to facilitate people working together when knowledge, resources and power are widely distributed. Instead of followers creating leaders, owners create stewards implying that stewardship is a more appropriate tool than leadership to facilitate network governance, collaboration and partnership and that it requires different skill sets and practices than leadership to be effective.

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  • In light of the growing public attention being paid to how we run our public and private organizations (scandal is sometime quite conducive to self reflection) I wanted to talk about leadership and how it must change
  • Leadership worked – for a while. It no longer does so, especially in situations where complexity is high & knowledge, resources and power are widely distributed It’s time to begin using other tools.
  • Leadership is a mechanism for for social coordination – one that transforms this (click) into this, while simultaneously increasing group member specialization and mitigating the conflicts that arise with that increased differentiation
  • The result can be summarized in a recent IRPP-Nanos poll that found that …
  • Who ever heard of government scientists protesting?? Heintzman suggests public servants shouldn’t necessarily follow elected leaders The US Congress’ attempt last December to avoid the “the fiscal cliff” failed because House Republicans wouldn’t support their leader John Boehner
  • Building on John’s point about the need to build communities – communities require owners and it’s owners that create stewards
  • Negative capability - In the sense that it was used by John Keats as a rejection of established attitudes and preconceived notions in favour of experimentation and a willingness to co-create a future without being overly encumbered by the past.
  • However we lack a theory of stewardship, OR, even a theory of collaboration. People assume collaboration just happens. Just as they assume stewardship will materialize to guide it. Instead what we have are a growing number of stories of great things happening without leadership. (click)
  • Stewardship begins with the recognition that leaders can’t do everything themselves This is what Tapscott and Williams describe in their Story of Goldcorp mining and the Goldcorp Challenge… We have known for a long time that the governance of tech startups is different from most companies. Unlike in the boards more mature companies; the membership of a startup board is not decided by the CEO but is the product of various interests -- owners, angel investors, customers, engineers, suppliers – with no perspective taking precedence. They act as peers. They see themselves as co-owners of the startups future. In this way both innovation and accountability are enhanced
  • In Getting To Maybe Zimmerman and her colleagues Michael Quinn Patton and Frances Westley explored what happens when a government like Brazil admits to not having all the answers and seeks the help of its citizens. (click) As Claude Rocan describes “ The fact that all three major political parties supported the CSCC in the 2006 election campaign suggests a consensus that the existing governmental apparatus, for whatever reason, was not capable of achieving the goals of a national cancer strategy.”
  • How do you create stewardship while avoiding dependence on personalities and individuals who may ultimately come and go in a collaborative venture? You create a process. But not one so overly prescribed that its utility is restricted to a few cases but sufficiently robust that people can begin to ask the right questions and then learn into it. My paper outlines some possible contours of such an inquiry system based on Information Gathering, Learning, Doing, Trust building, Feedback, and Relationship building. (click) My colleagues and I suggest that for good stewardship process we need to pay attention to the use of Heuristics, Affordances, Checklists, the development of Judgement and Connoisseurship. The Appendix in my working paper includes 18 of these key preliminary questions to kick start effective stewardship and collaboration.
  • Stewardship is a promising notion. It is not dependent on personality, nor are its cornerstones – ownership, diversity, inquiry and experimentation – all that threatening. It is, however, unknown. And uncertainty is not something that people like to embrace. Admittedly more needs to be done to explore both collaboration and stewardship, but, I would ask, isn’t a little uncertainty here still better than the certainty of leadership’s current failure? I wanted to leave you with 2 thoughts (click)
  • From leadership to stewardship

    1. 1. From Leadership toStewardshipChristopher WilsonSenior Research FellowCentre on GovernanceUniversity of OttawaCAPPACANADIAN ASSOCIATION OFPROGRAMS IN PUBLICADMINISTRATION
    2. 2. The notion of leadershipThe notion of leadershipwas for a different era.was for a different era.It’s time to retire it.It’s time to retire it.
    3. 3. Leadership is a mechanism ofsocial coordinationOne that can transformrandom groupings intoordered social structures…and increases the groups’capacity for specializationand coordinated activity
    4. 4. But Leadership has Falleninto DisreputeParliament is a Sham- MacleansThe $50B leadershipThe $50B leadershipindustry is a “fraud”industry is a “fraud”- Barbara Kellerman,HarvardIn over 40 years, theIn over 40 years, theleadership industry hasleadership industry hasmade no meaningful ormade no meaningful ormeasurable improvementmeasurable improvementin human human condition.- The End of LeadershipThe entire “leadershipThe entire “leadershipclass” is “fundament-class” is “fundament-ally self-dealing”ally self-dealing”– New York TimesThe Senate is theThe Senate is thebackwater of thebackwater of theUS governmentUS government– New YorkerUS CEOs have done more toUS CEOs have done more tohurt the economy thanhurt the economy thananyone else – even more thananyone else – even more thanthe President or Congressthe President or Congress– Fox News“a dog could have run GEa dog could have run GE” –- GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt of hispredecessor Jack WelchHSBC execs apologize forHSBC execs apologize forlaundering money for Allaundering money for AlQaeda and drug cartelsQaeda and drug cartels– The StarOnly 9% of CanadiansOnly 9% of Canadianshave confidence that thehave confidence that theFederal government canFederal government canaddress their problemsaddress their problems- Nanos ResearchWashington isSuicidal- Newsweek“Nearly every pillar ofNearly every pillar ofAmerican society hasAmerican society hasrevealed itself to berevealed itself to becorrupt, incompetent,corrupt, incompetent,or bothor both” - TimeThe 2013 global "TrustThe 2013 global "TrustBarometer" survey, finds as trustBarometer" survey, finds as trustin institutions continues to climb,in institutions continues to climb,only 18% of respondents trustedonly 18% of respondents trustedbusiness leaders, andbusiness leaders, andgovernment leaders scored onlygovernment leaders scored only13%.13%.- The EconomistContempt for theContempt for thewhole institutionwhole institution[of the Senate]- Macleans
    5. 5. What is Leadership?• What it should be– “bringing people together to make something differenthappen.” - Harland Cleveland– A way for followers to coordinate their individual activities toproduce value-adding, collective outputs that are more than thesum of the individual contributions• What leadership has become– a romanticized myth, a cult of personalities who are seen to beintrinsically special, and somehow different from followers– It’s perceived as the ‘cause’ that is capable of saving us fromourselves– It’s how you obtain additional perks and benefits…– but, it’s often susceptible to people later exposed as weak, liars,foolish, inept, corrupt, vain, lazy, demagogues, selfish and justplain crooks– A $50 billion industry that in 40 years has produced no evidencethat it has produced any ‘better’ leaders, mitigated the effects of‘bad’ leaders or contributed to the betterment of human society– an excuse for not adapting to environments where no one is orcan be ‘in charge’
    6. 6. The Leadership Bargain• Leaders are created by followers• Followers will follow, iff, the leader isperceived as both ethical and effective– Might, right or charisma no longer justify leadership– People want to follow … but only if they believe theintegrity and competence of a leader will help themget what they need– However, the distinction between leaders & followersis continuously being eroded -- generating at timesdisloyalty and even active resistance– No followers >> no leader
    7. 7. Laval Mayor GillesVaillancourtcharged withgangsterismFormer Italian PM,Silvio Berlusconi,sentenced to 1 yearin jailWarning!Leadership can be harmful to your organizationRob Ford “violatedthe municipalconflict of interestrules”Ottawa’s MayorOBrien chargedwith briberySarkozy underinvestigation for illicitcampaign financingIntergovernmentalAffairs ministerresigns overcampaign fundingirregularities.Aboriginal AffairsMinister JohnDuncan resignsover ethicsviolationsI found Mr. Mulroney’sevidence to be notworthy of any credence– Judge Oliphantex-SNC-LavalinCEO PierreDuhaime arrestedfor fraudThree ex-Nortelexecutivescharged Lance Armstrongaddresses GlobalLeadership ForumKen Lay,CEO of“America’sMost InnovativeCompany”,EnronRichard Fuld, CEOof LehmanBrothers, leadshis company to$639B bankruptcyJimmy Cayne,Chairman & CEOof Bear Stearns,“worst CEO ofall time - CNBCSenators MikeDuffy, Mac Harb,Patrick Brazeau,& Pamela Wallininvestigated forfinancialimproprietiesWachovia CEOThompson linkedto $378B inmoney launderingprior to bank’scollapse in 2008Award winningPennState coachconvicted serialchild molester,school presidentforced to resignFIFA President,João Havelange &other top officialsreceive millions inbribesUS CongressmanAnthony Weinerinvolved insexting scandal
    8. 8. Collaboration Diminshes Leadership• But even ethical leaders are increasingly ineffective due to issuecomplexity and distribution of knowledge, resources and power…• The Result: Few Canadians (only 9%) have confidence that ourleaders can address the concerns that matter to them most– eg. Issues like health care, jobs, education, environment & climate change,first nations, aging population, social programs, living standards &balanced budgets• Why? Because these ‘wicked’ problems take more people, moreperspectives, more and different resources, and multiple sources ofpower & authority to resolve. Citizens don’t believe our leaders ingovernment can work with others - Policy Options• The Economist recently asked, “why the big gap between trust inleaders and the institutions they lead?” Their answer - “leaders havebeen slow to adapt to the requirements of a world in which top down isno longer the best way to lead, or in many cases even a viable one.
    9. 9. Followers Create Leaders(and increasingly followers wont follow)A “weak” and “secretive” publicA “weak” and “secretive” publicservice starves Parliament of theservice starves Parliament of theinformation it needs to hold theinformation it needs to hold thegovernment to accountgovernment to account.- Parliamentary Budget OfficerThe US Budget failed becauseThe US Budget failed becauseBoehner "did not haveBoehner "did not havesufficient support from [his]sufficient support from [his]members to pass."members to pass."- Huffington PostLeaders without FollowersLeaders without Followers- The EconomistFederal scientists rally against the“Death of Evidence” 10 July 2012““public servants [should]public servants [should]make their own judgmentsmake their own judgmentsabout the public interest.”about the public interest.”– Former DM,Ralph Heintzman“we are the 99% andwe are leaderless”Occupy MovementOccupy MovementIdle No MoreIdle No Moreprotests beyondprotests beyondcontrol of chiefscontrol of chiefsGlobe & MailFederalism upsideFederalism upsidedown: Who speaksdown: Who speaksfor Canada now?for Canada now?iPoliticsDisloyalty isDisloyalty isgrowinggrowing- Optimum
    10. 10. Leadership is a mechanism of socialcoordination but it is not the only one.… there is no a priori reason to useonly leadership – only habit.
    11. 11. A Leadership Alternative• Stewardship– Instead of the ‘causal leader’, the stewardacts as a ‘catalyst’ among owners helpingthem to shape change together by acombination of process design & relationalgovernance– The steward “depends for his power onmaking other people powerful”.– Stewardship is a collective attribute that isneither personality based nor even peoplebased... But it can be encoded in a process
    12. 12. Stewards are Created by Owners• Building co- ownership & developingmechanisms to share it are key tasks• Affecting stewardship is primarily processdesign– assembling principles, rules, norms, behaviours,mechanisms and protocols into an ‘automatic pilot’capable of generating wayfinding, meaningful self-organization, social learning, resilience, trust andinnovativeness.• Stewardship is ‘learning by doing’
    13. 13. Stewardship Process• This coordinating process of stewardship has six separatebut interconnected tasks:– gathering together all the relevant actors and information;– creating an effective space for frame reconciliation to ensurecollaboration, leaning and innovation;– doing together but avoiding the rush to decisions and action;– generating trust with a mix of incentives & moral contracts likely tofuel both the continuous inquiry needed to facilitate learning, aswell as the need for contingent cooperation;– assuming failure, the constructing of feedback, fail-safe and safe-fail mechanisms to ensure both effectiveness & resilience; and– creating relationships that foster trust but also develop negativecapability - the conditions that ensure the collaboration will berobust enough to survive.
    14. 14. Stewardship is a mechanism ofsocial coordinationOne that coordinates,not through hierarchy,but networks ofrelationship
    15. 15. Hints of Things to Come• Goldcorp Challenge1– Goldcorp recognized it’s own experts didn’t knowenough about where to find gold so they openedthemselves up to the world with a $500K challenge &discovered many new approaches, 8 million ounces ofgold, and their net worth going from $100 m. to $9billion• Governance of Tech Startups– A bringing together multiple perspectives - owners,angel investors, customers, engineers, suppliers – withno perspective taking precedence. Both innovation andaccountability are enhanced1Tapscott & Williams, Wikinomics
    16. 16. Hints of Things to Come• Brazil’s HIV-AIDS strategy2– With one of the worst infection rates in the world in 1990, WHO said focuson prevention. The sick can’t be saved.– With no one in charge, Brazil was guided by communitarian principle thatnobody would be written off– Innovation & decision making were shared widely by a government thatasked questions about how things really worked & was committed tosharing everyone’s successes– Brazil’s infection rate now 33% better than that of the USA• Canadian Partnership Against Cancer Corporation3– A knowledge mobilization partnership of federal & provincial govts & VSOs– It has policy authority & financial resources to implement a national cancerprevention strategy– It is a collective body which, when it comes to cancer strategy, directs bothfederal & provincial governments– Governments participate but in arm’s-length relationships2Westley, Zimmerman & Quinn-Patton, Getting to Maybe3Rocan, The Voluntary Sector In Public Health
    17. 17. Does the situationneed changing?What is theproblem?How can wework together?How do we learntogether & evaluateour progress?Info GatheringLearningDoingTrustFeedbackRelationshipsInvestigativeObservationalRelationshipDesignLearning WhileDoingInstitutionalizing an Inquiring SystemHeuristicsAffordancesChecklistsJudgementConnoisseurship
    18. 18. Going Forward“You never change things by fighting theexisting reality. To change something,create a new model that makes the oldmodel obsolete.”- Buckminster Fuller“We cannot win the future with agovernment built for the past.”– US President Obama,11 March 2011
    19. 19. Thank youThank youChristopher WilsonSenior Research FellowCentre on Governance,University of OttawaTel: 613-355-6505Email: