Simon Sinek’s ideal: people wake up inspired to go to work, and are fulfilled by work

swissmiss | CreativeMornings Video: Simon Sinek.  (Found through )

This seems really inspiring, and I’m sure there’s some truth to it.  But it feels like it isn’t totally backed up by evidence, and is a bit “new-age-y” and preachy.  Something to ponder on…


There are times when you just need a strong leader to make something happen

My thesis (which I write about on this blog), which I accept is only an ideal: Community Development is the answer to everything. One problem with this thesis: But, there are times when you just need a strong leader to make something happen.

Definition: a “strong leader” model – the way of working where there is one person who is the leader, who is fairly autocratic or authoritarian, and who takes all the decisions (though they may ask for others’ ideas) and has all the responsibility.  Everyone else largely does what they are told to do.  It is very appealing to human nature – assuming they are a good quality leader, it means everyone else can enjoy knowing there is a clear vision, knowing what their role is within the vision, knowing what they have to do next, and not having the responsibility for overall success.  It is also often very quick to achieve a conclusion (success or failure) because the process doesn’t involve lots of discussion.

How to integrate the “strong leader” model within Community Development

The community decides when to use the “strong leader” model: who they want as leader, their powers, responsibilities, limits, and when the community will take charge again.  Fundamentally, the community is always in power: they just choose to use the “strong leader” model on occasion, delegating certain decisions, in a similar way to them choosing to use a particular tool or technique where they “delegate” certain decisions to the process described by the tool or technique.  And I think it would be important that there isn’t a long-term or permanent leader – one is appointed each time (preferably a different one) for a specific project.

Problem: most people and communities tend towards wanting a strong leader most of the time – it’s human nature. Therefore the Community Development work (catalysed by the Community Development worker) that has to be done, is to urge the community to limit their use of the “strong leader” model.  They need to limit how often they nominate a leader, and also for how long the leader is in power before the community takes charge again, and then how much power and responsibility the leader has.

Process and method: in each situation when the community wants a strong leader, the community should work in a Community Development way to do as much as possible to limit what they actually need a leader to do.  Through Community Development techniques, the community should do as much of the task as possible, and should make as many decisions as possible, before the leader’s role begins.  Also, again using Community Development, the community should design the role of the leader and nominate the leader, and set out the limits of the leader’s job.  The community should be encouraged to narrow down and cut away as much as possible of what the leader will do, and take on more and more itself.

My implication in this whole post is that, while it is always possible to impose greater limits on the use of a “strong leader” model, there will always come a point when a “strong leader” is needed – a tiny kernel.

Question: Given my examples above, is the “strong leader” model only needed and appropriate for making an event happen?

Question: Am I right that a “strong leader” is sometimes needed?

Other thought: My thoughts on Community Development are really me doing philosophy.

Related post: Need for leadership

Analyse and Plan according to Audience and Purpose

Can you think of anything that can’t be analysed according to its audience and purpose?  Can you think of anything that shouldn’t be planned from the starting point of its audience and purpose?

In planning, every decision should flow from what the audience is and what the purpose of the thing is.  What characterises the audience?  Why would they be interested?  What would they want or need?  Then, what is the purpose of the thing?  Broadly, it’s to cater for the audience, but what is the aim of the thing beyond this?  What is it for?  What is it to do?  The more specific you can be about these things, the better.  And the more focussed on these things, the more likely you will be successful.

In analysing the success or otherwise of something, you analyse it on its own merits: how well did it achieve its purpose? How well did it cater for its intended audience?  (Of course, you can then go on to analyse it against broader considerations…)

I learnt this in English Literature at school, but it seems to apply across the board; posters, events, organisations, websites, campaigns…

In Community Development, it would be a crucial tool to use, and a crucial skill to help the community to learn.

Pixar Lore: The Day Our Bosses Saved Our Jobs

the best bosses serve as human shields, protecting their people from intrusions, distractions, idiocy from on high, and anything else that undermines their performance or well-being

via Pixar Lore: The Day Our Bosses Saved Our Jobs – Bob Sutton – Harvard Business Review.

How does this square with the importance of being able to stop an organisation when it has done what it set out to do, rather than fight to keep it existing for its own sake?

Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Rather than profit or money, what motivates us is:

Purpose – a higher motivator, once you have enough money so that more money no longer matters as a motivator

Mastery – getting better at things

Self-direction – doing it your own way.

The RSA Animate series, which I highly recommend, features this animation/lecture by Dan Pink.  It confirms for me what I already thought that humans are not motivated by profit, and it’s better for organisations to recognise and work in this way: and the science (psychology, economics, sociology) backs it up.

YouTube – RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us.

Motivation: manipulating it for good

Companies are motivated to make profit.  I don’t believe, in and of itself, that this is bad.  We just have to find ways to make this motivation work for good means and ends.  Regulation is one such way.

As David Mitchell said in his Observer column (1st August 2010):

“we can only properly harness the power and wealth of oil companies for developing sustainable energy sources by creating a business environment in which that activity is as profitable, or looks like it will become as profitable, as drilling for oil.”

David Mitchell | Give me Ryanair’s brazen villainy over the bogus compassion of BP | Comment is free | The Observer.

I think the same principle can be applied to other agents – other organisations, groups, and individuals.  And when working with people, this can be empowering: finding what someone is motivated by, then creating the environment in which their motivation will lead to good things.  It’s manipulative but without the negative connotation IF they know about and agree to it, and if it leads to good things for themselves (and doesn’t benefit the manipulator).

Present as formal, Behave as flexible

Two continuums, two axes:


“Present” is how an organisation presents itself outwardly to the world, to potential employees, to potential customers, to initial enquiries, to regulators, to potential funders etc.  “Behave” is how an organisation behaves with someone or a situation inwardly, once they are part of an exchange or interaction – to established employees, to regular customers, to enquirers who have returned for more dialogue, to the contact people working for regulators and funders looking to make their lives and yours easier.


“Formal” is about structures, forms, procedures, hierarchies, doing things ‘properly’.  “Flexible” is about getting the job done, bending the rules, making the customer/employee/regulator/funder happy even if it means doing things differently, doing the right thing by ignoring the printed manual.


You need the “formal” as a skeleton structure and a starting place, and it gives everyone confidence about where they stand, and where you are going.  But if you “behave” like this, people are stifled and frustrated and all eventualities are not catered for.

If you “presented” as “flexible”, it would be unprofessional, unfocussed, unmotivating, and you wouldn’t get funding or contracts as other organisations’ structures couldn’t see how you tick their boxes.

So, “present” as “formal” and “behave” as “flexible”.