November 29, 2011

Psychology, Leadership & the Big Ideas

I recently attended a seminar through the New England Society for Applied Psychology in which Sarah Cliff, Executive Editor of the Harvard Business Review spoke. Her presentation was entitled, "On the Psychology of Leadership and Managing People"-- a topic which is indeed near and dear to my heart.

Ms. Cliff described leadership and management trends evident throughout the history of the journal, some of the noteworthy ones being: Maslow's hierarchy of needs, Ed Schein's organizational culture, career anchors, OD; Dan Goleman on Emotional Intelligence, Martin Seligman on Resilience, Chris Argyris, Peter Drucker, John Kotter, and many more.

Recent trends noted include: technology, globalization, the increasing pace of change and lack of job security--all of which we know have a big impact on leadership today.

One comment really stood out for me:
"Truth: We have not been overwhelmed by BIG, EARTH-SHATTERING management ideas in the past 12 or 13 years."     

Interesting. Reading much of the current literature on leadership, and the plethora of books, articles and social media on the subject, one might think there are earth-shattering discoveries being made every day. Going beyond the hyperbole, however, one realizes that it is probably not "earth-shattering" ideas that are needed, but instead the execution of known effective practices. For example, we know that paying attention to the relationship between managers and their direct reports is important, yet we don't emphasize or reward people for doing so. We know that the soft skills (call it "emotional intelligence" "transformational leadership" or whatever) are important, yet we still neglect these areas.  We know hostile work environments, bully bosses and unethical behaviors are bad for a company's bottom line, but these continue in many work settings. We are making progress, but not nearly enough.

So, truth be told, I am not bothered by the current lack of earth-shattering management ideas.  What we really need is paying attention to what we already know works. It may not be sexy, but it might just change our world for the better.


  1. Hello Betty, hope all is well, your note is a great remnder to focus and do what we know how to do...

  2. Thanks "anonymous" for your comment. Yes, sometimes the simple activities done consistently and effectively can have a big impact in the long run.

  3. Dear Betty Doo,

    You have nice post. I think there are two factors which has a giant impact on the ability of the leadership that are technology and globalization. In today's world of modern age we need some dynamic kind of leaders who are full of ideas and have sense of innovation.

    All The Best
    360 feedback

  4. 360 Feedback-- I agree that technology & globalization are important today. I also think we have many dynamic and innovative leaders with great ideas--a critical issue is how to create environments in organizations that will encourage the ideas and innovations rather than inhibiting them. I see that as a major challenge for many companies today. Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog!