1. Dan

    My sense is that the environment these days is dominated by the dominant, who by nature are people who have succeeded by saying “yes” to themselves and “no” to others. Aggression and self-interest appear to be a stronger part of the real organizational and social norms than ever — even as there are broad experiments in collaboration. We delude ourselves that such people are better in some way, and are better leaders — this is a real and negative artifact of both past hierarchy and some emerging meritocracies.

    At bottom, such statements are very “old-style” and extreme responses, perhaps a reflection of the polarities in the culture generally and the deeper fears that are driving our society today.

  2. Jane Perdue

    Dan — Your comment regarding aggression and self-interest brought to mind a recent HBR article regarding a study in which rude bosses were believed to be more powerful than ones who were respectful. http://hbr.org/2011/07/why-fair-bosses-fall-behind/ar/1
    A slice of organizational and cultural conditioning which gives me pause…and is also inspiring from the standpoint of there being much work to do to get polarities better understood and practiced. Appreciate your thoughtful insights!

  3. Dan

    Jane — Thanks for the link to the HBR article. It’s interesting, isn’t it? And at the core this perception of power. You may well be right that part of the reason the training participants are moving away from humility is that it looks powerless and they are already feeling that way — so why would anymore intentionally go there? I sense, but cannot verify, that this is a bit of a veneer, and that many privately still want a more “whole” leader, who uses his or her powers in a more balanced way. However, they are getting stuck between what the world seems to desire — what appears to be successful right now — and trusting their own native desire for richer, more authentic forms of growth.

    • Jane Perdue

      Dan – I believe leaders are faced with a conundrum. I agree with you that many want to be “whole” leaders themselves and be led by the same. However, the reward and recognition systems in place penalize (in my opinion having spent 15 years in Fortune 100 companies!) the more balanced approach. “You’re only as good as your last set of numbers” seems to be the prevailing mindset.

  4. Dan

    Jane — Your “conundrum” is my “getting stuck between.” The question is how as consultant leaders can we best help? Clearly the answer is not caving in to simply teach more tricks to achieve the numbers (or make it look like they’ve been achieved); nor can we too blatantly push a leadership vision that people do not or cannot publicly relate to. In this sense, the real conundrum is our own. At an early stage in my career, after co-authoring “Driving Fear Out of the Workplace,” there was a point when it seemed all my work was either futile or fragile. When I surrendered to the fact that I was going to stand for exactly what I stand for whether or not it always fit the default culture, I did feel the penalties directly and personally, and still do to a degree. But that’s precisely where my own leadership began, and I suspect the same is true for others as well. The rejection of the default culture (not the rejection of people) is what makes my own work what it is — and I couldn’t be happier with that direction — as I suspect you, too, are proud of your own leadership choices. We risk our careers in a way to LIVE the values that are most important to us, but without that modeling, really, could our clients see as well what their own leadership choices might be? I do not know you, but I suspect that you live your values, Jane, including humility, in a way that others absorb something directly, and despite the responses in your workshop, I bet there are some who “heard” the message that you bring in deeper, more personal ways, although less vocal, and over time that’s where their own changes will be.

    • Jane Perdue

      Beautifully put, sir! Throughout my career, I didn’t hesitate to tactfully point out the elephant in the room. As with you, there were consequences for that choice, yet it was the right choice, and I went into it with my eyes wide-open. Now, in the second act of my life (after taking off what I call my corporate charm bracelet because of the increasing values chasm!), I work with leaders so they can understand and practice the both/and polarities of leadership. Provided there’s willingness, a leader can be both confident and humble. You’re correct that a certain portion of individuals embrace the both/and paradox, have the capacity to manage it, and are the joys that light up my life. What set this workshop apart for me was the small number of individuals who affirmed their belief in humility from the get-go and how vehemently opposed some were to practicing it in the workplace. Sounds like we share quite a few values and leadership thoughts…will have to read your book!

  5. Dan

    Thanks, Jane, and as relevant as they still are, the books are getting a bit dated. I write on my blog mostly, and invite you there when you have time! Many best wishes to you.


  1. The Third Journey of Leadership | Unfolding Leadership - [...] confidence and tangible accomplishment. As leadership consultant, Jane Perdue, recently lamented, “When did humility fall off the leadership agenda?”…
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