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‘The strategy business with the secret weapon’

‘For twenty years I have been a voice crying in the wilderness trying to get my fellow executives to take subjectivity in strategy seriously.  Subjectivity was my first love.  And later, my secret weapon.’

Twenty years ago, I recognised subjectivity as possibly the most sophisticated and precise strategy tool available to business.  Subjectivity in strategy is fast, accurate and value laden.

 

‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’

With these words, ‘Jesus placed his signature on a unique life’ writes Paramahansa Yogananda in his book The Second Coming Of Christ.

But what have these words got to do with strategy and strategic leadership?

It’s a good question.  And the answer involves the word delusion – ‘the action of imposing on others with false impressions’ according to one definition in the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

Although this might not apply to you, let’s take a simple business example to explain how delusion works.

 

'Strategic Leadership Beyond Psychology'

Leadership is a problem if you are trying to solve it as an action upon someone else.

You may agree that it’s common to see requests for leaders who drive things through to completion: get things done.

In a more subtle form you call for the hero who can persuade in difficult circumstances – a valuable skill!

But it’s a short line to manipulation if your intention is to bend others to your way of looking at things rather than articulating your own position so that they can choose.

'The end justifies the means'

 

'Mankind's history has proved from one era to another that the true criterion of leadership is spiritual'

Leadership is a spiritual practice. This idea rewrites the rules about strategic leadership and articulates something you probably know to be true – maybe you even act out of it.

Malcolm X frightened me as a young man. His early message from the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, 'The white man is the devil', seemed to threaten my existence - even though we lived in different countries separated by the North Atlantic Ocean.

He expected to die a violent death. The only doubt in his mind was whether Dr Martin Luther King would be killed first,

 

'Grayson Perry, Masculinity, Strategic Leadership'

Grayson Perry - artist, transvestite, All Man – investigates the underlying symbolism of the City of London in his latest episode, Rational Man.

Monochrome with a large penis could be one description.

That might do a disservice to the financiers who opened their doors but we are grateful to them.  We can’t escape the fact that men rule this world.  And - come to that – most businesses.

Common sense is viewed through the lens of masculinity. 

But where has that got us today?

 

'All Experience Is Subjective'

Gregory Bateson is recognised as one of the most influential minds of the 20th century.  His book Steps To An Ecology Of Mind examines the nature of the mind.  

His experience in anthropology and communication theory through to his studies in alcoholism and schizophrenia contribute directly to problem solving and strategy.

Bateson's relevance to strategy is the acknowledgement that all experience is subjective.

What follows is a conversation between father and daughter from the Metalogue:What Is an Instinct - written up in the same book. 

 

'Strategic Leadership Is A Big Problem'.

It’s not that you don’t care.  Probably the opposite is true. 

Leadership models have relied on executives driving, collaborating and even serving their businesses – as if a mental model would do it.

But it won’t.

Models of leadership conceptualised in the mental realm still miss the secret ingredient.  And that’s why there are large levels of disenchantment under the surface.

This was a problem in 1981 – when I gave up a career in advertising - and it’s still a problem today. 

 

'What can Dr Martin Luther King Jnr teach you about strategy?'

If you want to develop and articulate strategy you can do a lot worse than studying Dr Martin Luther King Jnr.  President Obama has and he won 2 presidential elections.

In business we are not so good.  And probably the main reason is that thinking is isolated from feeling and character.  To put it another way, strategy is disconnected from purpose and values.

And purpose comes first!  Let me explain.

 

Say One Thing and Do Another

The 2008 economic crisis in The West might not have been so bad had there been hope.  But the citadels of leadership were crumbling at the same time.

In business, wilful corporate fraud and corruption was evidenced by Enron at the start of the 21st century.  The Catholic Church was embroiled in allegations of child sexual abuse in many parts of the world - going back over the last 50 years.  And the British Parliament expenses scandal finally emerged into the light in 2009, after a battle with House of Commons Authorities over a Freedom of Information request.    

 

Money and Spirit on the same page – Strategy for a New World

If you go to business school to study strategy you will learn how to analyse, use logic and explore different models which relate to the world we live in, the industry and the firm.

These models focus on data: but, even if a project promises a 20% return on capital employed, this isn’t how you make your decisions.

Over the next few weeks and months I will write in more detail about this new way to approach strategy but here is an outline of the frame within which the ideas will be explored.

·         Purpose

 

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