27 Nov

The time to build Relational Leadership is now!

Timothy Wolfe

Robert Hall, an author and consultant and recent speaker at the Relational Thinking International Conference, has recently published a fascinating article in the Huffington Post about Relational Leadership. Entitled ‘The Follower Revolt: What’s Eating Leaders for Breakfast?’, he writes about the growing distrust from followers in leaders and the increasing incidence of followers rejecting leaders whom they are no longer willing to follower. You can read the full article here.

He recommends three steps for leaders in the light of this developing distrust:

Relational Risk — Name it

Leaders must begin by identifying and naming Relational Risk as a new, compelling component of risk management. Often the signs are present but ignored. The New York Times reports “Volkswagen’s command-and-control structure probably made it difficult for Winterkorn to escape responsibility, even if no direct culpability. Critics long faulted a company culture that hampers internal communication and discourages mid-managers from delivering bad news.” Millions of customers threatening class-action lawsuits were a product of a leader’s unidentified Relational Risk.

Of the University of Missouri, the New York Times wrote, “Wolfe didn’t do himself any favors. A former corporate executive, Wolfe possessed a command-and-control style that didn’t jibe well with campus life. And he clearly didn’t know how to respond to the protests.”

Relationship crisis does not devolve from a single incident but from a series of episodes where relationship damage accumulates because it is ignored or handled ineffectively – incubating risk.

Spineless acquiescence or reactive overkill are traps for leaders who fail to name and respect relational risk.

Relational Leadership — Lead it

Relational risk demands relational leadership. I define Relational Leadership as the ability to deliver and sustain productive engagement with widely different groups. It means being engaged with your employees, your customers, your shareholders and especially with outspoken groups that feel powerless – that may seem oppositional or even hostile. Yesterday’s wisdom was: Hold your friends close and your enemies closer.

Today’s wisdom requires leaders with the humility to recognize that those who oppose them constitute one of their most valuable resources. Competitors push leaders to perform better; philosophical opposition introduces differences that may reveal blind spots or opportunities for innovative improvement. Critics push them to get clearer on what they believe and why. A recent study found that highly regarded CEOs were six times as likely to be viewed as humble when compared to least-highly regarded CEOs.

Leaders coddled by uncontested power are often unprepared to lead during a relational crisis. In fact coddled leaders often unwittingly make coddled followers stronger. Today like never before, in both selecting and developing leaders, Relational Leadership skills must be a priority for successfully addressing this new risk of highly critical, sometimes entitled followers.

Relational Metrics — Measure it

The growing relational risk that leaders face is changing the metrics that boards, key shareholders and regulators pay attention to. I recently spoke at a Relational Risk conference at Cambridge University in England with attendees from about 20 countries. A fellow speaker addressed a growing movement requiring more integrated reporting from public companies beyond just financial information to include metrics regarding social and relational capital – a Relationship Scorecard, you might say. This broader reporting is now mandated in Brazil and South Africa and voluntarily being addressed in 20 percent of the FTSI 100 companies in the UK. Governments and shareholders recognize that financial reporting is a pretty narrow, after-the-fact instrument for understanding and anticipating relational risk with customers, employees, communities and the environment.

Instituting a Relationship Scorecard to track and understand the strengths and weaknesses of key constituent relationships is an important step to proactive Relational Leadership.

If we want a more accountable, less-entitled society, it must start with leaders competently and plan-fully addressing follower dissonance.

Simply blaming the “victims” will not be a viable strategy. In medicine it often leads to medical malpractice. In leaders it risks leadership malpractice. Leadership is similar to medicine where what most often gets you sued is not substandard medical treatment, but callous relationship treatment.

The risk of followership revolt is real. Self-righteous dictators, Pharisees, and command-and-control leaders are no more attractive than self-righteous followers. Relational leaders must be the grown-ups that engage proactively, productively, and relationally; anything less fuels revolt. Relational leaders will view these challenges as opportunities to strengthen leadership, build relationships with dissident groups and grow their relational currency. The time to build Relational Leadership is not in the midst of a crisis – it is now!”

Photo:  Timothy Wolfe, who resigned as President of the University of Missouri amid a race row at the University. (By UKMC from Flickr)

21 Oct

Watch: Relational Thinking – What’s the big idea?

Michael Schluter

The Relational Thinking International Conference last month provided a great opportunity for leaders in business, the non-profit and public services sector to come together to explore the concept of Relational Thinking in their particular fields. The first full day of the conference began with a talk by Dr Michael Schluter CBE, the founder of the Relational Thinking movement, explaining the big idea.

 

29 Sep

Two days well spent: The Relational Thinking International Conference 2015

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Photograph by Julian Claxton

A ground breaking event emerged from 100 participants belonging to 19 nations (Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, and the USA).

The theme was “Relational Risk and Sustainability”, and participants presented, listened to, and discussed ideas in plenary sessions and in specialist tracks on business, international development and public services, in order to examine how to build strength in companies, organizations and communities around the world.

The ground covered included: the global economy, business, management, leadership, good governance, peace-building, freedom of thought, politics, international aid, development, measuring and mitigating Relational Risk in companies and supply chains, and how Relational Risk surfaces and can be managed in public sector organizations working together as well as with communities, schools and health care systems.

Peter Lacey, Co-ordinator of the Public Services Track (education, health care, community work), concludes that “public sector organisations have perhaps been too quick, with their local community’s implicit consent, to ‘take responsibility’ for key areas of provision rather than to work in partnership; and that greater community engagement in these areas should contribute to, and result in a greater focus on, the prevention agenda.”

Here is the list of Presenters at the Conference (all speaking in their personal capacity, and unless mentioned otherwise, they are UK-based):

  • Nabeel Al-Azami / IR Worldwide, Murabbi Consulting
  • John Ashcroft / Relationships Foundation
  • Jyoti Banerjee / International Integrated Reporting Council
  • Julia Bicknell / World Watch Monitor
  • Brendan Bromwich / Consultant
  • Sir Paul Coleridge / Marriage Foundation
  • Andy Corley / Quadralene Ltd
  • Beat Fasnacht-Müller / Businessman and social entrepreneur, Switzerland
  • Matthew Frost / Tearfund
  • Ram Gidoomal CBE / Fair Trade Pioneers Traidcraft plc, Traidcraft Exchange
  • Dr. The Lord Maurice Glasman / London Metropolitan University
  • Dr Khataza Gondwe / Christian Solidarity Worldwide
  • Dr Janet Goodall / University of Bath
  • Professor Prabhu Guptara, William Carey University, India
  • Beris Gwynne / World Vision International, Switzerland
  • Robert Hall / Author and speaker, USA
  • Per Holmström / Region Örebro County, Sweden
  • Dr Justine Huxley / St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace
  • Dr Nick Isbister / Listening Partnership Ltd
  • Revd Dr Jeremy Ive / Relational Peacebuilding Initiatives
  • H.E. Peter Kallaghe / High Commissioner for the United Republic of Tanzania
  • John Kennedy / Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust
  • Trish Knight / Whole Systems Partnership Ltd
  • Dr Danny Kruger / Political commentator, co-founder of Only Connect
  • Professor Dale Kuehne / Saint Anselm College, USA
  • Jeff Latsa / Global Hope Network International, Switzerland
  • Jeremy Lefroy / Member of Parliament
  • Rob Loe / Relational Schools Project
  • Dr Ted Malloch / Saïd Business School
  • Jill McLachlan / The Academy for Chief Executives
  • Prof. Colleen McLaughlin / University of Sussex
  • Dr Paul Mills / IMF (speaking in his own capacity)
  • Dr Koleka Mlisana / University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
  • Dr Zolile Mlisana / District Hospital in Soweto, Forensa, South Africa
  • Vincent Neate / KPMG
  • Pádraig Ó Tuama / Corrymeela Community, Northern Ireland
  • Susan Pinker / Author, Canada
  • Prof. Julian Rivers / University of Bristol Law School
  • Adrian Sieff / The Health Foundation
  • Dr Sarah Snyder / Rose Castle International Centre for Reconciliation
  • David Strang QPM / HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Scotland
  • Richard Thorby / Matrix Consulting
  • Dr Arleen Westerhof / European Economic Summit, Netherlands
  • Prof. Bob White FRS / University of Cambridge
  • Tim Young / Renuma Consulting Ltd

Responses from participants and speakers were enthusiastic and included the following:

“I was amazed at the variety of contents presented and the quality of the presentations”

“I appreciate the wide range of speakers/backgrounds/industries”

“I was surprised by the breadth of the subject…”

“Very thought provoking, and good opportunity to network with others of like mind”.

“Was great to be presented with material outside my realm of interest”

“Thank you. Two days well spent”

New Initiatives

The Relational Academics Forum held its first public Symposium on 16 September, Chaired by Professor Julian Rivers, and focused on the carefully chosen fields of Theorizing and Measuring Relationality, Relational Perspectives on Social Development, on Health Care, and on Corporate Governance & Finance (authors: Brendan Bromwich, Dr. Paul Grimshaw, Dr. Henk Hadders, Dr Jeremy G.A. Ive, Peter Lacey, Sarah Pawlett Jackson, Professor Linda McGowan, Dr. Elaine McNichol, Dr. Zolile Mlisana, Alexandre Gajevic Sayegh and Lorna Zischka). The 25 participants decided that the initiative should be continued, and a committee is tasked to organize the 2nd Symposium next year. If interested in the Forum or the Symposium, please contact Ms Marjon Busstra, m.busstra@relationalresearch.org

 

 

13 Mar

Registration for 2015 International Conference now open!

Conference banner

We’re pleased to announce that registration for the 2015 Relational Thinking International Conference is now open! You can register here.

You can expect a full two-day programme with interesting and inspiring speakers. Some of those who have confirmed are

  • Sir Paul Coleridge (UK), Former high court judge in the family division. Founder and chairman of Marriage Foundation.
  • Prabhu Guptara (India), Distinguished Professor of Global Business, Management and Public Policy, William Carey University.
  • Beris Gwynne (Australia), Director and Representative to the UN for World Vision International in Geneva, Switzerland ; former Australian Diplomat.
  • Robert E. Hall (USA), Author, Consultant, and former company Co-Founder and CEO.
  • Per Holmström (Sweden),Manager, EU Funds for East Central Sweden 2014-2020.
  • Rob Loe (UK),Education Research Director, Relational Schools Project.
  • Dr Michael Schluter CBE (UK), Author, speaker, and founder of the Relational Thinking movement.
  • Dato’ Dr Kim Tan (Malaysia), Founder and Chairman, NCI Cancer Hospital (Malaysia)  and Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.
  • Dr. Robert White (UK), Professor of Geophysics in the Earth Sciences department at Cambridge University.

For more names, a briefing paper on Relational Risk and tickets, please visit the Conference web page. We hope to be able to welcome you in Cambridge in September!