This is the backstory to the book The Workmanship of Leaders.
This book follows fast on heels of A Changed Perspective: An Essential Guide for Emerging Leaders. I wrote A Changed Perspective from mid-November to mid-December 2022, and it was published in early January 2023. As I normally do when I finish a book, I keep doing research, working my way through the pile of books and papers, taking notes, and thinking. Within two weeks I was seized by the motivation to write another book.
This was an unusual turn of events. Normally there is about a six-month gap between books. Not this time. I wrote The Workmanship of Leaders from the middle to the end of January. When the feeling hits, you go for it. Despite the short duration, this was not an easy book to write given the different ideas and concepts that needed to be weaved together.
The Workmanship of Leaders is essentially a sequel to A Changed Perspective. It explores leadership from the perspective of workmanship. This is an uncommon way to conceive of leadership. Most people understand leadership as a profession. They do not consider the knowledge work of leaders as workmanship in the sense of how craftsmen/women (manual workers) do their work. But I wanted to do this to see what would happen if leadership was thought of in this way. It ends up being very revealing.
We learn that top leaders are diligent about their workmanship when it comes to protecting and preserving the Institution of Leadership and the System of Profound Privilege, but they are not at all workmanlike when it comes to the job of governing the organization. That, remarkably, is of secondary importance, despite how consequential it is to people’s lives and livelihoods — and even to society.
I also show how leadership training focused on improving behaviors is largely a waste of time and money because it fails to change leaders’ preconceptions — the preconceptions that inform the Institution of Leadership and the System of Profound Privilege. And in my close examination of the Cynefin framework, I identify a flaw, a mode of use for which it is not intended, and a new, sixth domain.
The Workmanship of Leaders should be seen in the larger context of this series of six books published between 2018 and 2023 (listed below), whose overarching aim is to understand why most leaders, since ancient times, have no interest in transformative organizational change and instead prefer the status quo — to maintain their vested rights and privileges, which is far greater in importance than the interests of workers or of society.
- The Triumph of Classical Management Over Lean Management: How Tradition Prevails and What to Do About It
- Irrational Institutions: Business, Its Leaders, and The Lean Movement
- Management Mysterium: The Quest for Progress
- The Aesthetic Compass: Foundation of Leadership Action and Inaction
- A Changed Perspective: An Essential Guide for Emerging Leaders
- The Workmanship of Leaders: Systems, Frameworks, and Information Processing
The status quo may have been fine for leaders in centuries past, but the times we live in are vastly different than even 50 years ago, which now features environment, energy, resource, social, economic, and political challenges like never before. For leadership to continue in the future as it has been in the past seems to be a recipe for impending disasters that will cause great harm to people and planet.
Many of these impending disasters can be avoided, but only by first understanding the Institution of Leadership and the System of Profound Privilege, and why leaders have long remained so intent on protecting and preserving them. That is the starting point for reimagining leadership that is congruent with the needs of people and the times we live in.
Finally, the six books explain:
- Where are we now? → The past and current state of leadership.
- Where do we need to go? → The future state of improved leadership.
- How are we going to get there? → There is, unfortunately, no easy answers. The books contain myriad ideas for readers to think about to creatively develop new ways to produce the kind of improved leadership that is in-step with the times and needs of humanity.
- How will we know when we have arrived? → When governance of organizations (other-regarding knowledge and skills) is more important than the Institution of Leadership and the System of Profound Privilege.