Wednesday, 16 December 2015

New UN Report on Future of Enterprise Zones

A report on the future of Enterprise Zones is launched by the United Nations this week. These zones are popular with some governments, from India to the UK, but they aren’t without criticism, in terms of what they achieve for sustainable development. The report maps out a new way forward where zones can be centres of excellence in corporate sustainability.

IFLAS Founder Professor Bendell co-wrote the report, and is grateful to Dr Tony Miller at UNCTAD and also Vice Chancellor Peter Strike and colleagues at the University of Cumbria for enabling him to do this work.

Professor Bendell wrote an article for the World Economic Forum which summarises the arguments in the UN reportYou can download the report here (pdf). 


The launch of the report is mentioned in a round up of the last Quarter, to conclude the year. Click here to read the full Quarterly from Prof Bendell.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Therapeutic leadership?

John Foster

In my paper Leadership after Sustainabilityfor the IFLAS Leading Wellbeing research festival, I discussed the leadership required to combat pathologically deep-embedded forms of denial. This is not just the denial (amazingly, still around) that climate change and other forms of environmental tragedy are real. It extends to what I call activist denial – refusal to accept that if we were going to stop this happening, we’d have started seriously forty years ago, but we didn’t, so we won’t. (Hence, leadership for after sustainability.)

That leadership will have to be charismatic and therapeutic. It cannot simply operate within the assumptions and practices of the ruling ‘sustainability’ paradigm – that would now be to subscribe to embedded denial, not to break out from it. We will need instead the naturally-arising creative powers through which leaders and followers work together to make new things happen in the world. (The natural gift of these capacities is what charisma means.) Only in such dynamic duality will we have even a chance of acting from the levels beneath denial at which we can still hope to engage with the real.

The therapeutic leader

Therapeutic leaders will draw with greater consciousness and intensity on the capacities inherent in any leadership. The crucial characteristic of a leader is that he or she goes out ahead, in speech and action, to articulate and implement an emerging common will. The leader, by what he or she says and does, realises shared purposes in which, unled, the group wouldn’t share because they would not emerge as purposes without the leader’s prompting. Human leadership has an essentially expressive-creative role. The leader’s words and actions, taken up acceptingly by the group, create something real that was not there before. Through creative-expressive agency, those with leadership gifts – insight, articulacy, focus, determination, aptness for responsibility – help us constitute our goals and organise around the pursuit of them.

Charismatic-therapeutic leaders use these gifts neither to impose such goals, nor merely to propose them. Rather they frame aims and approaches which they intuitively recognise as apt for group endorsement, because expressive of what is there but presently inaccessible (often through denial) in the wills of relevant others. Leading into and through the breakdowns of systems, institutions and long-established expectations of control which coming climatic and ecological disruption will bring, they will thus facilitate resilient reconstruction both of life-ways and of self-understanding. Such leaders will be the innovative poets of praxis, opening up insights and re-making possibility for all those with the gifts of followership – powers of recognition, acknowledgement, sincerity in response, critical alertness and disciplined submission when called for.

 Justifying therapeutic leadership

Only such a conception of leadership-and-followership could be adequate to what is coming. Evidently, however, this raises very sharply the problem of how such charismatic-therapeutic leadership is to be justified. It is no good saying that it is justified if it gets us out of denial and through breakdown. Justifications of means by ends are notoriously dangerous, and nowhere more so than in political contexts where cravings for mere power and dominance are always lurking to reframe the ends of any collective action to suit themselves. But then the justification of what the therapeutic leader does has to be intrinsic to the idea of expressive-creative leadership, and about this there is a deep problem.

Put starkly: the leader’s expressive and pragmatic articulacy guides the group by creating its common will; but how, if not to this common will, is leadership to be held properly accountable for what it does? To the extent that the leader is principally responsible for articulating the goals and standards in term of which he or she is to be held accountable, the force of ‘accountability’ drains away. (If someone makes the laws, then the question whether they act legally in doing so cannot arise, and for logical not legal reasons.) But if leadership, however intentionally therapeutic, is unaccountable, or only accountable to itself, does that not imply an unacceptable ceding of initiative, and therefore ultimately of power, to the individual leader?

 Leadership’s creativity

The problem of justifying charismatic-therapeutic authority is thus structurally related to a very general problem for understanding human creativity. If creators (of any kind) are unaccountable, acting gratuitously on what is finally nothing more than their own behalf and whim, what they create can have no more claim on our attention than our own equally gratuitous likings and dislikings accord it. But if they are accountable to others, to ‘public opinion’ via sets of established rules and guidelines, something essential about freedom and spontaneity going with the idea of creativity has been lost. And how can the process of creation be held accountable (which seems the only other option) to itself?

This is a genuine not a rhetorical question, and until it is convincingly answered lots of people will go on being nervous about therapeutic leadership. I think the answer has to do with how leaders and followers must collaborate in a mutually-created public space of meaning – a process which in different forms pervades our lives. (See, for a great example, the lessons about co-creativity which Sue Cox, also at the research festival, draws from Argentinian tango.) I am now trying to work out this answer in detail –  any thoughts which this blog may stimulate much appreciated!


John Foster is a freelance writer and philosophy teacher and an Associate Lecturer in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University


You can find the link to this and all submitted papers here at the Leading Wellbeing website, or via the IFLAS Research page here

The views of guest contributors to the IFLAS blog do not necessarily represent those of the University or its staff.

Find out more about the Spring School and other courses run by the Institute for leadership and Sustainability here

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Thursday, 10 December 2015

Prof James Wilsdon - The Metric Tide: The Video

Prof James Wilsdon 

The Metric Tide: A New Agenda for Responsible Indicators in Research


Back in October, Professor James Wilsdon visited us to deliver an IFLAS Open Lecture at the University of Cumbria campus in Lancaster.

We now present the video of that Open Lecture, recorded and edited by our local film-makers No Routes Found, and introduced by IFLAS founder Professor Jem Bendell.

Citations, journal impact factors, H-indices, even tweets and Facebook likes – there are no end of quantitative measures that can now be used to assess the quality and wider impacts of research. But how robust and reliable are such indicators, and what weight – if any –should we give them in the management of the UK’s research system? 
Over the past year, the Independent Review of the Role of Metrics in Research Assessment and Management has looked in detail at these questions. The review has explored the use of metrics across the full range of academic disciplines, and assessed their potential contribution to processes of research assessment like the REF. It has looked at how universities themselves use metrics, at the rise of league tables and rankings, at the relationship between metrics and issues of equality and diversity, and at the potential for ‘gaming’ that can arise from the use of particular indicators in the funding system.

The review’s final report, The Metric Tide, was published on 9 July 2015. James Wilsdon, who chaired the review, will outline its findings, and propose a more responsible agenda for the use of metrics in research management and policy.

Find out more about the Spring School and other courses run by the Institute for leadership and Sustainability here

May we also take this opportunity to invite you to join the LinkedIn group, our Facebook Group and to follow us on Twitter if you have not already done so.


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

How do we really see the world?

Katalin Illes

Volkswagens misconduct reminds me of the importance of keeping ethical dilemmas and questions about virtues and right morality in the forefront of our minds. The more corrupt the environment the more vital it is to have clarity in our own heads and hearts about our own values, responsibilities and behaviours. It is vital to be conscious and honest about how we see the world.
If we believe that the world is dangerous, volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous then we are driven by our fears and our survival instincts. This world view focuses on winning and justifies cutting corners, cheating and telling lies.
If we believe that the Earth is our home, that we share this address with a few billion other human beings then we develop a sense of connectedness to others and a responsibility for our environment.  We start seeing examples of virtuous behaviour, unity, care and agility around us. With this mindset we focus on what is good in the world and use our energy and creativity to make improvements to support the well-being of all.
It is easy to condemn and project our frustration and disappointment onto the car manufacturer. They let us down and deliberately cheated not only us but our already troubled and fragile environment as well. Some of you who read  Jeremy Clarksons views on this matter in the Sunday Times on the 27th of September  might agree with him and suggest that cheating is not a big deal, (according to Clarkson we all do it) so stop tutting and chuckle at VW instead. He believes that cheating is part of life and VW was just unlucky because it was caught with its trousers down.
It is easy both to condemn and to dismiss the worlds biggest car manufacturers deliberate act of rigging emissions tests in its diesel cars. The disaster VW finds itself in looks as murky as the scandals that stained the reputation of the banking industry. By installing defeat device software into  its VW and Audi diesel cars to deliberately fool testers into thinking they polluted far less than they do, has wiped £22bn from the companys value in a few days.
Trust has been lost on different levels and it is too soon to tell whether Volkswagen can ever regain its past good reputation.

Who is responsible for such a colossal mistake? Was it only a handful of individuals who invented a software and decided to install it into 11 million vehicles without authorisation?  Or was the cheating part of the overall, secret strategy agreed by senior position holders to support financial gains and enhance the companys global position? There is no point speculating. Volkswagen promised to do a thorough investigation and time will tell what shall be revealed and what information will get into the public domain about the cheating, the lies and the failure of leadership.
We could consider the various position holders at VW and analyse how well or not they demonstrated leadership. However, I find it much more meaningful if we take this case as an opportunity for self-reflection and self-examination. How well do we measure up? Do we cut corners and focus mainly on our own survival, our personal gain and advantage? Do we take responsibility for our actions and the actions of colleagues around us?  Do we appreciate the contribution of others and help them grow?  When we make decisions do we consider the wellbeing of all (even if we do not know them personally)? Do we think about the long-term impact of our actions on the environment and on the life of future generations?

A lot will change in Volkswagen in the months and years to come. It is important to remember that change does not happen in the abstract.  Lasting change requests a new outlook and personal commitment to a different kind of behaviour.  I propose that we can change when we have our own insight through experiences, questions and reflection. When we understand why the behavioural change is important for us personally. If we want lasting change we need to change our mindset and align our beliefs to the new behaviour. We need to master the new behaviour and own it by generating a personal version of the knowledge and apply it habitually. We are ready to help the change process of others only when we embody and live the new behaviour.
The search for good leaders, the desire for personal wellbeing, the search for meaning and how to live a good life have been with us throughout the ages. The wisdom traditions give us clear guidance on how to live and lead well.  Aristotle for example defines virtues as conscious habits that we do. We learn them through education and role models and when we continuously practice them they become an integral part of who we are (Aristotle, Nichomachean ethics, Bk. 2.5). His ideas from 2,500 years ago resonate well with the neuroscience supported process of successful behavioural change.

 Trusted leaders are the guardians of the values of the organisation. They release the energy of people and enlarge the human and intellectual capital of the employees. In a trusting environment when we are committed to our shared purpose we play active roles both as leaders and as followers.  Authentic leaders know themselves and this helps them to be effective and moral (Walumbwa et al. 2008) and lead by example.

There is growing evidence that the materialistic model of mainstream business does not produce true wellbeing for people and actually undermines wellbeing. Outmoded mental models have produced an intellectual bankruptcy: the bankruptcy of mainstream economic thought(Scharmer, O. Kaufer, K. 2013. p. 11).  By advocating economic action on the basis of money-making, and by justifying success in terms of profits made, the materialistic business model encourages the irresponsible behaviour of economic actors, contributes to ecological destruction and disregards the interests of future generations. The presupposed and still widely used rational management model is in fact highly irrational if it produces non-rational outcomes for society, nature and future generations.   What we observe is a disconnect between reality and awareness: between an eco-system-centric global economy and an ego-centric awareness of institutional decision makers. 
Unless we take personal responsibility and develop a character that habitually follows ethical behaviour, unless we find the courage to continuously remind others of our connectedness and collective responsibility for considering the wellbeing of others, we do not have the moral right either to condemn or to support the cheaters of the world.

Aristotle. 1985. Nichomachean ethics. Hackett publishing Co.

 Scharmer, O. and Kaufer, K. 2013. Leading from the Emerging Future, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. San Francisco 

Walumbwa, F.O, Avolio, B.J., Gardner, W.L., Wernsing, T.S. and Peterson, S.J. 2008. Authentic Leadership: Development and Validation of a Theory based Measure. Journal of Management 34 (1): 89-126

You can find the link to this and all submitted papers here at the Leading Wellbeing website, or via the IFLAS Research page here

The views of guest contributors to the IFLAS blog do not necessarily represent those of the University or its staff.

Find out more about the Spring School and other courses run by the Institute for leadership and Sustainability here

May we also take this opportunity to invite you to join the LinkedIn group, our Facebook Group and to follow us on Twitter if you have not already done so.