As oil continues to pour into the Gulf of Mexico, BP has come under scathing criticism for the litany of errors and omissions that led to the current crisis. In a classic article reprinted below, Pegasus cofounder and 2010 conference keynote speaker Daniel H. Kim talks about leaders' ethical responsibility to understand the underlying structures within their domain well enough to predict future consequences of current actions. We offer Daniel's timely and provocative article with the hope that his insights might help prevent disasters down the line.
|Leading Ethically Through Foresight
by Daniel H. Kim
Rereading Robert Greenleaf 's
renowned 1970 essay "The Servant
As Leader" is always an exercise
in humility for me. His writings are a
constant reminder of the high standards
leaders must set for themselves
if they are to be worthy of people's
full commitment. Of all the things
that Greenleaf wrote, I have found the
following passage to be the most
striking and most challenging to live
"The failure (or refusal) of a leader to
foresee may be viewed as an ethical failure;
because a serious ethical compromise today
(when the usual judgement on ethical
inadequacy is made) is sometimes the
result of a failure to make the effort at an
earlier date to foresee today's events and
take the right actions when there was freedom
for initiative to act. The action which
society labels 'unethical' in the present
moment is often really one of no choice.
By this standard, a lot of guilty people are
walking around with an air of innocence
that they would not have if society were
able always to pin a label 'unethical' on
the failure to foresee and the conscious failure
to act constructively when there was
freedom to act."
I have never heard anybody talk
about leadership responsibilities in
that way. Others may admonish us for
not having exercised better foresight
or for incorrectly anticipating the
future. They may call it a failure of
planning or an error in judgment. But
to call such a lapse an ethical failure is
such a strong stance that it compelled
me to take a deeper look at the issue
so that I could come to better understand
why Greenleaf used such
This article originally
Thinker, Vol. 13 N. 7 (September 2002). Click here to receive a free current issue of The Systems Thinker.
|Pre- and Post-Conference Workshops to Extend Your Learning
Thinking in Action:
Cycles of Success
November 8-10, 2010
Boston Marriott Copley Hotel
Are you ready to go deeper into certain areas of systems thinking and organizational learning? Our one- and two-day pre- and post-conference workshops with leading experts in the field will give you the tools you need to fuel new cycles of success in your organization:
Through Applied Systems Thinking
Sat./Sun., November 6-7;
8:30 AM to
Innovation Associates Organizational
Learning; David Peter Stroh,
more... | Order#PRE01,
Aikido, Conflict, and Relationship: Getting on the Mat
Sun., November 7; 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM
Judy Ringer, Power & Presence Training
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Scenarios for Change Agents: Fueling New Cycles of Success Through Playing Seriously
Sun., November 7; 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM
LeAnne Grillo, Reos Partners; Per Kristiansen, Trivium
more... | Order#PRE03,
Facilitation Tools for
Thurs./Fri., November 11-12; 8:30 AM to
Ginny Wiley and Rebecca Niles, The Systems Thinking
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now for the conference.
Teams save even more. Contact Mark at
1-781-398-9700 for information about team discounts.
|Volcanic Moments: Four Practices for Facing Surprises with Grace
by Larry Dressler
A volcano erupts in Iceland. Tens of thousands of flights are cancelled, and millions of passengers stranded. This is the kind of surprise I call an "oy vey moment." Oy vey is a Yiddish term. I grew up hearing my grandparents use the expression frequently. It's an exclamation of dismay, frustration, or exasperation.
Oy vey moments have three defining characteristics. They are unexpected. They are unwanted. They are uncontrollable in that we have little ability to contain or influence them directly. Organizations have their own versions of volcanic events--a product failure, the loss of a key employee, an economic recession. We often label these events as distractions, disruptions, or disasters.
In the midst of unwanted surprises, leaders and change agents often lose their calm and clarity. We get stuck in fight-flight-freeze mode. Have you experienced any of these typical reactions in the face of an oy vey moment?
- Lost your sense of humor
- Became fixated on what wasn't working
- Gave up completely
- Felt annoyed and resentful
- Looked for someone to blame
- Pretended it wasn't happening
It's natural to feel frustrated and confused by unwanted surprises. It's just not all that useful. Being stuck in self-protection blocks our access to our creative resourcefulness and delays resolution of the problem.
Getting Results by Focusing on What Works
with Diana Whitney
Thursday, July 8,
2:00-3:30 pm ET
A social transformation is taking place in organizations worldwide. Leadership practices are moving from authoritarian to collaborative, from fear-based to strengths-based, and from "talking at" to inquiry and dialogue. The idea of "Appreciative Leadership" and the power of positive change are at the vanguard of this transformation.
In this live session, thought leader Diana Whitney will define leadership as a powerful relational process. She will offer five core strategies for extraordinary performance:
Learn more and register...
- Asking positively powerful questions
- Bringing out the best of people and situations
- Engaging with people to co-create the future
- Unleashing the creative spirit
- Making choices for the good of the whole
See other Pegasus webinars
The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods
with Peter Block and John McKnight
Thursday, July 22, 2:00-3:30 pm ET
A movement is growing of people with a different vision for their local communities. They know that real satisfaction and the good life are not provided by organizations, institutions, or long-range plans. People are discovering a new possibility for their lives: that right in our neighborhoods, we have the capacity to address our human needs in ways that systems, which see us only as interchangeable units and as problems to be solved, never can.
In this live session, Peter Block and John McKnight will explore with us very concrete ways to regain the power of community and join with others to become the architects of a more hope-filled life.
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