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Weeknote: 08.05.23


  • Leadership is not about authority but individuals taking responsibility for finding solutions and creating a culture of proactivity and learning.

  • Generative AI has the potential to create more inclusive societies and address tough problems facing the world.

  • Leadership happens when someone takes on tough challenges and addresses concerns, and the Permissionless Organization model emphasizes less hierarchy and more decision-making agility.

  • Balancing control and providing direction is important for people to see and step into "gaps."

  • Changing the approach to digital tools can aid in this process.

Themes from the week

The “leadership as authority” model lets the rest of us off the hook (When Everyone Leads). This sentiment resonates with me. Leadership isn’t what happens because someone has ‘authority’. It happens because individuals want to take responsibility for finding a solution. This means identifying and defining the problems up from and at the outset. It is also about the culture of an organization. I enjoyed Edgar Schein’s description of the key elements in a learning organisation, as follows:

  • They encourage proactivity. People are encouraged to take decisions and solve problems.

  • They are committed to learning to learn. “Feedback is useful only if the learner has asked for it, so one of the key traits of the learning leader must be the willingness to ask for help and accept it.” (p.354)

  • They make positive assumptions about human nature. Every day you need to choose to trust.

  • They are committed to finding the truth through inquiry and dialogue.

  • They understand the importance of cultural exchange. Employees are encouraged to spend time outside their organisation, identifying learnings and themes from other organisations.

  • They actively encourage cultural diversity.

HBR Ideacast is running an excellent series on "How Generative AI Changes Productivity". After listening to several episodes, one observation about the debate on Generative AI is that we tend to focus on AI's impact on the economy, business and worker productivity. But, I'm not hearing much about how Generative AI can play a role in creating more inclusive societies and how it can be a tool to bring more stakeholders into the discussion. Productivity matters not only for the economy and business but for humanity. The real question is how can we use Generative AI to create more time for humans to focus on the tough problems facing our world?

The real question is how can we use Generative AI to create more time for humans to focus on the tough problems facing our world?

I often think leadership is when someone takes responsibility for a problem or addresses a challenge. In When Everyone Leads, the authors talk about leadership being focused on the “gap”. Leadership happens when someone wants to take on the tough challenge facing them and their colleagues. This is usually something that no one wants to deal with explicitly. “The gap starts with concerns. Don’t avoid naming the tough stuff. You can’t change something you won’t acknowledge” (When Everyone Leads, p.22).

This idea resonated with an HBR article I read on The Permissionless Corporation. The idea here is that we are moving to organisations with less hierarchy and, because of this, can make decisions faster. The challenge is balancing the need for control with the importance of getting out of the way. Helping provide direction without exercising too much control. You want people to see the gaps and then step into them. In the digital realm, the article talked about how changing the approach to the tools we have at our disposal can help with this. The table is set out below.


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