Friday, August 7, 2015

Running the Human Race!

Winners are grinners. You're in it to win it. Go hard or go home. Eyes on the prize!

So what happens when you live life at this frenetic place? You will only gauge your success relative to those around you. And if you're a leader - a frenetic leader - you will only want to drive your team to achieve results, to beat the competition, to win. This is the accepted imperative of business. And it's killing us!

There is another way to run the human race. Not by being a frenetic leader, but by being a phronetic leader. Phonetic leaders embrace "phronesis" or practical wisdom, which is the virtuous habit of making decisions and taking actions that serve the common good. It is a capability to find the "right answer" in a particular context.

Phronesis, acquired from experience, enables leaders to make good judgements in a timely fashion and take actions guided by values and morals. When leaders distribute this kind of knowledge within their organisations, they can reach enlightened decisions.

The phronetic leader must still make judgements and take actions to sustain profitability. But he or she will do so while taking a higher point of view - what's good for society. According to Ijuro Nonaka, Director of the Research Centre for Practical Wisdom at Fujitsu Research Institute, there are six abilities required to be a phronetic leader:
  1. Wise leaders can judge goodness: Phronetic leaders practice moral discernment about what's good and act on it in every situation.
  2. Wise leaders can grasp the essence: Practical wisdom enables leaders to see the essence of the situation and intuitively assess the nature and meaning of people, things, and events. 
  3. Wise leaders create shared contexts: In Japan a ba (place, space, or field) refers to the context in which relationships are formed. Those participating in a ba share information, build short-term relationships, and try to create new meaning. 
  4. Wise leaders communicate the essence: Phronetic leaders communicate in a way that everyone can understand. They use stories, metaphors, and other figurative language that allows individuals with different experiences to grasp things intuitively.
  5. Wise leaders exercise political power: Phronetic leaders understand the viewpoints and emotions of others. They carefully consider timing - when to make a move or to discuss issues. They engage in dialectical thinking, which enables them to deal with contradictions, opposites, and paradoxes by moving to a higher level.
  6. Wise leaders foster practical wisdom in others: Practical wisdom must be distributed as much as possible throughout the organisation. Fostering distributed leadership is one of the wise leader's biggest responsibilities.
Running the human race is not about your track record. It's not a linear pathway to some wished-for future state. You can afford to make inductive jumps according to your ideals and dreams. If you aren't idealistic, you simply can't create new futures. But you must also be pragmatic - to see things as they really are, to grasp the essence of the situation, and to envision how it relates to the larger context. You can be phonetic, not frenetic, and judge what must be done in the moment to achieve the common good.