Dynamic Leadership: Thinking and Acting Dialectically.


Dynamic Leadership: Thinking and Acting Dialectically.

If you read any serious review of strategy or public sector reforms in one guise, or another, you will find the leadership theme writ large. “More leadership is needed” or words to that effect. In terms of my own professional practice I moved away from more ‘fixed’ conceptions of leadership based, for example, on traits or a personality type many years ago.

That is not to say that they don’t have a part to play. Just not in the style of coaching and development that I specialise in. My niche tends to be for those in current leadership positions or roles and are leaders de facto. Therefore, my needs are different. Quite distinct. Unique? Well… not quite that far! But each of them is without a doubt a unique individual.

One model I have found that adds value is one that I developed around 7-years ago whilst completing some first-person inquiry work. I thought I might share it and you can see if it catches your imagination, interest or even curiosity?

Rather than seeing key concepts as ‘fixed’ it creates a context that is much more dynamic or fluid. It is grounded by leader-member exchange theory (LMX) and then fused or integrated with dialectical theory or dynamics.

For those of you that have not heard of this before consider a form of magnetic power like the one in the picture.


You might remember at school a simple experiment that used magnetic ‘power’ to drive a small object such as a toy car, for example? If not, then imagine one now.

Dialectical power is stating things as plainly as possible… the real energy from the two opposing forces: like the two poles of a magnet, North and South or positive and negative. You’ll soon notice that lots of practical things have two opposites: good and bad; eternity and mortality; the sacred and the profane; inside and out; back and front; etc.

In terms of developing leadership awareness or ‘talent’, skills and responsiveness to a given context my clients have found the following model adds value. For our model imagine two sets of poles or opposites:-

  • Vision/Far Away versus Present/ The-Here-and-Now
  • Individual/Team Needs versus Task/Delivery/Execution

Most of the leadership empirical evidence tends to support the view that leaders will have strengths or preferences for one of the two poles. For example, a Visionary leader may have a compelling strategy. And they might also prefer to meet the individual and team’s emotional, psychological and training needs. However, as you can see their ‘blind spot’ is that they are not strong on focussing on the here and now and the absolute need to deliver a product and/or service to their customers or service users. This analytical framework can be found in many organisations, as well as many a discussion in the staff canteen when front-line staff are ‘getting it in the neck’ from disgruntled customers due to delivery delays!

My clients report that they have found that the practical added value of this model lies in the ability to empower them in these five key realities:-

  1. More flexibly in harnessing organisational energy (a great part of the model is making energy explicit. I’ll blog soon on various organisational energy flows especially around innovation).
  2. Responding to emergent business/customer intelligence in more responsive and effective ways
  3. Team members connecting their work-load to the broader Vision and thereby enhancing meaning; job satisfaction and retention rates
  4. Improved delivery of key products/services to customers
  5. Improved cognitive and emotional capacity through reflective professional practice

I hope this model might help you to see yourself in a dynamic, fluid and changing leadership context and that you can respond in more grounded and reflective ways.

Take care Jason

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Jason is a Business Psychologist as well as a qualified Project Manager professional.

‘Agile is King and PRINCE remains the heir’? Not always…Project Design Choices.

At first glance the following sentence, or statement, will seem self-evident: “The project design will have a significant  bearing on the project’s success”. Fair enough I hear you cry! But what does the empirical evidence-base say about when, or what variables or factors determine when you should ‘design in’ adopting an Agile approach.. as opposed to say a more traditional approach like the classic PRINCE2?


In this blog I’d like to focus on the team and project complexity factors. So I will ignore the organisational and the customer factors. I’ll cover those off in a later blog.

What do we know?

Firstly, that there are discernible team factors that should be analysed prior to adopting an Agile approach. These are as follows:-

  • Project teams committment (affective and psychological)
  • Internal project communication style/methods
  • Project teams expertise in the technical knowledge and actual delivery experience
  • Team dynamics and composition/maturity

What we know is that when the team is less mature, relatively inexperienced, and with low levels of technical skills and delivery experience and where the team dynamics are less collaborative and more ‘silo’ focussed then the evidence is that…traditional PRINCE2 project management is the best project design and this will predict project success. This holds true even when the project complexity is low and the project length and scope are short and narrow. A fascinating reality.

However, the opposite also holds true for Agile. What we know is that we should ‘design in’ an Agile approach in contexts where we have well established technical experts that have actual grounded experience of the given project’s demands. We also know that they all need to have worked ‘outward focussed’ and in typically more multi-vendor project designs in the past. In situations such as described and when these skills and experiences are found… but where the team is new then a professional PM can add value by developing the new team successfully in an Agile method as the Scrum Master.

This latter set of variables also holds true in project contexts where there is a need for pace, or urgency as well as innovation in the technical ‘fusion’ or integration of multi-suppliers. In this ‘innovation space’ Agile is ‘King’ and Prince remains in his younger, less mature but none-the-less ‘royal’ household!

I would add to this latter point that having a PM with actual experience of collaborative methods as well as some grounded, actual delivery, of complex projects (multi-million pound)would also be a critical success factor to this end. She, or he, can literally add value to the project outcomes in the ways outlined.

Happy project design!

As you can see your choice will have evidence-based consequences. Choose wisely!

All best Jason


Business Strategy as Narrative: Why Are Stories So Powerful?

Organisational Strategy. One of the most set of two powerful words known to man; well at least in the modern business lexicon. According to Amazon there are over 7,000 books under the general search for ‘business management strategy’.

Typically, a popular book in hard-back can sell for between £ 20.00 and £ 40.00. Some of the classic texts are still selling thousands of copies per annum and some are in the realms of the 5th edition this year like Mintzberg’s classic. To be fair it still remains a tour de force.

What about strategic thinking as an educational need? Take a look at the fees from Harvard in 2016:

Class of 2016
Tuition $58,875
Health Fees $3,358
Program Fees $7,360
Room/Utilities $11,544
Board/Etc $13,963
Total $95,100

As you would anticipate the Harvard web-space has some excellent and very persuasive data demonstrating the various career routes that their students take; as well as the typical salary rates over the next 5-years. You won’t be too surprised that the most popular route is ‘consultancy’ with some 23% taking that route, and with a starting salary of $ 135,000.

I think you’d agree that this makes for a powerful narrative or story. Their ‘offer’ is that you ‘invest’ some $95k in your own self-development.. and then when you leave in your consultancy role you are earning $135k. Happy days!

This new book is one that I can’t wait to buy. Ask my wife and she will tell you that my office at home is over-flowing with such books. But this one…this one is different. Isn’t it? Surely? The truth is that it does strikes me as interesting read.. as it looks to analyse the ways by which a powerful narrative, or story, is made all the more compelling with the right numbers (or what we might call data).

This is not the only role for a decent strategy of course. But a good strategy should take you on a journey from where we are as a business, or as an organisation, to the ‘End Game’- where we want to be. Of course, the End Game is a powerful and compelling Vision that has been shaped, debated, argued-over and developed. If you are a public sector organisation then one would anticipate that participatory methods have been expertly used to co-create the End Game.

A good strategy uses a range of powerful images and ideas such as:-

  • icons that give rise to meaning in the readership
  • graphics that take complexity and then simplify things- for easy movement in and between the strategic stages/sections
  • maps that ground the narrative
  • case studies that demonstrate the ways by which innovation from external strategic scanning re(search) will be adopted
  • data, data, and data
  • personal stories from different segments of your customer base (or service clients) that help convince other users that your strategy meets their needs, expectations and hopes and also that it addresses some of the their genuine fears

One of the reasons stories are so powerful is beautifully expressed in this excellent read by Geoff Mead. It is not pushing it too far to say that this book has changed my life in many positive, and unexpected ways! It is a ‘must read’ to be honest. You can find some of the work that he does here at



I have a four-year old son. He absolutely loves stories. Part of the ‘deal’ is that if he             co-operates with me brushing his teeth…then…we have more time for stories. Currently each evening the ‘deal’ is that we have 2 read stories (that he borrows from our local Caerphilly library), and then 1 more story that we have to co-create. Fab fun!

So stories are deeply powerful, cultural ways to share meaning. They stimulate or evoke emotions. They engage and persuade us when they are working.. and they move us in various ways. To live out our values in the world, I guess?

Strategy really ought to do just the same!