Leadership isn’t a science. There is little by way of hard fact and formulae. It seems odd then that the tone of much of the leadership literature is deterministic, implying that this or that is the right way forward.
Experience has taught me that it is messy; success, failure, puzzlement are all ingredients in the leadership soup. So why doesn’t the way we talk about leadership reflect this? Perhaps it just won’t sell. Perhaps people who buy such books are looking for reassurance when faced dilemmas that are scary for them and those around them. This may be partially true, but it is not the whole storey. For me there is something about being assertively humble in facing the future. This means paying close attention to the interplay between a person and those around them, of being reflective and thougthful as we all inch forward into the future. And not pretending to have the answers.
It also raises the question of how we should write and talk about leadership. In our book, Leading Mindfully, Pete Burden and I engage in a conversation; one that took place over several months. We don’t offer solutions but we try to make sense of leadership dilemmas that we see around us and have experienced as well as how others have thought about such issues too. Conversation seems a more authentic way to talk about the success, failure, puzzlement of leadership. In doing so we hope to make connections that the reader can identify with that might be useful to their practice, not as a promise, but as a humble offering to make sense of the challenges ahead.