Maatschappelijk leiderschap

‘Good’ leaders also need ‘bad’ skills

My theme at the upcoming Global Conference of ILA in Vancouver (Canada)

Looking forward to my visit to Vancouver for the annual global conference of the International Leadership Association. My main reason to be there is to meet a really global community of people interested in, practicing, researching and publishing about all aspects of leadership. These international perspectives help to understand the phenomenon, the practice and the different cultural views of leadership.

My main topic will be: ‘Good’ leaders also need ‘bad’ skills

This is a very old theme, following the analysis of writers like Machiavelli: how to pursue and get ‘good’ results, for society, climate and welfare etc., in a deeply divided, turbulent, political landscape? And above that: the new ‘disruptive power of citizens’ (De Waal, Amazon 2018) is making this public arena, public debate and public leadership still more tense, dynamic and even divisive.
So, ‘good’ leaders need also the skills to persuade and negotiate with parties on the opposing side of their purposes, probably out of selfinterest, but maybe because they don’t agree with your ‘good’ purposes or even don’t think they are ‘good’ at all?
These ‘bad’ skills include manipulation, knowing things but not telling publicly (is this lying?), rhetorics to persuade the public of your good policy (don’t leave this skill only to the populist right-wing political leaders!) and even using laws and regulations to force people and parties to the ‘common good’ as you see it!

Intentions and results

As a thinktank, promoting active citizenship, social entrepreneurship and civil leadership, the main focus of Public Space Foundation is on the values, morality, courage, intentions and purpose behind these kinds of leadership. In a moral sense this leadership can be called ‘good’ leadership. At the same time there is the need of getting these well intentioned good results for society realized in the visible reality of society and citizens themselves. Just good intentions are not good enough for people if they remain words on paper or in talk. In my PhD research on ‘civil leadership’ only civil leaders were researched where the public value that was realized could be directly linked to their personal effort. Only the leaders that could be proven to have personally realized visible and experienced public value were called civil leaders and further researched about their values!

Tension between being good and behaving effectively

Increasingly I am aware of the possible tensions and dilemma’s in this kind of leadership between these two elements: aiming at good ’things’, but also realizing it in practice. The effort of leadership will take place in often very divisive, negative, politically emotional and conservative, even protesting or threatening, environments. These good leaders need to have all skills to get results in these circumstances. This might include some ‘bad’ skills like manipulation, political intrigues, demagoguery, not always telling the truth, etc.

This negative environment is now further getting more tense due to the new media- and ICT-technology. That is now changing public opinion, public debate and public protest as I analyzed and showed in my book ‘Civil leadership as the Future of Leadership. Harnessing the disruptive power of citizens.’ of 2018. In this book I discussed phenomena like the ‘battle for the eyeballs’ (leading to a much more theatrical style in public and politics), ‘everyone a journalist’ (leading to much more visible news ‘from the streets’, but also visible evidence of wrongdoings and scandals) and ‘swarmbehaviour’ (ad hoc and very fast organizing of massive public protest, both physical and virtual). We all now can see in our own countries how this is affecting society, wellbeing, political arenas, etc. This makes it necessary to discuss this tension between ‘being good’ and ‘behaving effectively to get these good results’.

ILA Global Conference 2023 ‘Cultivating Leadership for a thriving Future’

The topic I would like to address is also described in the announcement (download pdf) for the conference program. So, everybody can see what is interesting to me, following the main theme of the conference. This way I hope to encourage the guests at the conference to talk about these issues with me.

I will have some special occasions in the program to further discuss this. Totally in line with this topic, I will be chairing a workshop about ‘Business Leaders as a force for Good in Society’ on Saturday.

I will also be an active member at the author meeting tables at the welcome and opening reception on Thursday. This is of course because of my latest English book: ‘Civil Leadership as the Future of Leadership. Harnessing the disruptive Power of Citizens’ (Amazon 2018). In this blog you can find an explanation of the main message in this book, following much of my large international tour, that is still running, in lecturing and discussing this book. See also¬† the video of my introduction and discussion of this analysis at the annual conference of ILA in Ottawa.

It is still possible I will be chairing a round table discussion about these same statements, as I also did in Ottawa and Geneva.

Looking forward to many inspiring encounters and discussions in Vancouver!

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