Context in the form of quotations

There’s a lot of stuff out there to read about leadership. Here are five quotes I use in the report to give some context for CPP approaches. The first one I find especially interesting as although written in the context of collective leadership in the public sector in Scotland it captures many people’s questions about CPP as it has developed. The others touch, for me, on the power of stepping back – leaning out rather than in – and on the inbuilt tensions around ‘organisations’, as opposed to groups of people working on something shared.

‘In a multitude of ways the work is riddled with discomfort. It can seem blurred and confusing. It makes sense to some and not to others. Does it offer something new or is it simply a re-working of the old? How does one devote care and attention to an initiative that feels useful without making it overly precious? How does one practise commitment without being a zealot? Is it feasible to hold true to what one believes is important while also welcoming dissent? There is much uncertainty and ambiguity which swirls about and I wonder what counter-force that activates? If the underpinning motivation is towards system change; disruption of the status quo; encouraging shifts in established ways of being, knowing and doing there will also be a pull towards stability and places of familiar comfort. I am left with a question of whether that tug between settled and unsettled states feeds into another tension – how to lean towards diversity rather than assimilation?’

Frances Patterson: ‘The Power of beginnings’ (Workforce Scotland)

‘Though they differ widely in personality and style, genuine system leaders have a remarkably similar impact. Over time, their profound commitment to the health of the whole radiates to nurture similar commitment in others. Their ability to see reality through the eyes of people very different from themselves encourages others to be more open as well. They build relationships based on deep listening, and networks of trust and collaboration start to flourish. They are so convinced that something can be done that they do not wait for a fully developed plan, thereby freeing others to step ahead and learn by doing. Indeed, one of their greatest contributions can come from the strength of their ignorance, which gives them permission to ask obvious questions and to embody an openness and commitment to their own ongoing learning and growth that eventually infuse larger change efforts.’ 

Peter Senge, Hal Hamilton and John Kania:The Dawn of System Leadership

 ‘Our heroic impulses most often are born from the best of intensions. We want to help, we want to solve, we want to fix. Yet this is the illusion of specialness… If we don’t do it, nobody will. This hero’s path has only one guaranteed destination – we end up feeling lonely, exhausted and unappreciated. It is time for all us heroes to go home because, if we do, we’ll notice that we’re not alone. We’re surrounded by people just like us. They too want to contribute, they too have ideas, they want to be useful to others and solve their own problems.’

Margaret Wheatly:Leadership
in
the
Age
of
Complexity:
From
Hero
to
Host

‘I’ve lost faith in reforming anything that calls itself an organisation they inevitably dehumanise us… organisations value people less and less and yet… there’s enormous hope in humanising spaces in organisations.…What dehumanises organisations is the system’s design based on predictability, consistency and control. There can be experiments and exceptions locally for a while, but most often they are killed off by the system’s requirement for consistency and predictability. My aim is to carve out spaces for human possibilities. I cannot change organisations – they have this inbuilt context, and the patriarchy is so deeply embedded in us – but I can decide every time how to occupy the room… ‘

Peter Block, in interview

‘The most powerful thing that I or any leader in the arts can do is to lose control.’ 

Madani Younis, former Creative Director of South Bank Centre


An extract from Multiplying Leadership in Creative Communities.