Wednesday, May 4, 2011

my brain hurts!

And so here we are en route to Oslo, Norway, after 2.5 packed days in Brussels.  We have had meetings with representatives of the European Union and NATO…and  all of this playing out against a backdrop of the killing of Osama bin Laden and the Canadian federal election. 

I am trying to process everything we have experienced, but it is difficult.  The combination of jet lag, back-to-back meetings, and too much food makes it hard to make sense of it all. 

Let me try.  I am starting to get an idea about leadership.  That it is a combination of factors….yes, certainly, the ability to articulate a vision and strive to achieve it is one….but it is also the ability to harness the energies of others…and not in a hierarchical way, but almost in an intuitive way of reading the moment and providing the space for something new or better to emerge.  I don’t know how we cultivate this talent in our hierarchical universe.  The pressure to deliver, the imperative for short-term results  may  favour those who are more inclined to direction.  And I ask myself, do I have the ability to back away?  Do I even want to?

And then there was another dawning realisation.  Listening to the bureaucrats from the EU, I found myself thinking, “ is this what we sound like to non-bureaucrats”?  It was an awful moment…we were being bored witless by a series of safe, measured observations on the mechanics of decision-making at the EU….by someone clearly fascinated by the subject matter…but incapable of making it interesting.  As one of our other speakers mentioned later, “it is a system designed for paralysis”…in which accountability is almost impossible to establish, and in which every country has a veto, and in which there is a mania for creating new committees and structures designed to make things better, but in the end it seems as though all they really do is talk about how they ought to do things.

Perhaps I simply failed to understand, but it seemed to me bureaucracy run amok.  It reminded me a bit of my experiences with IT specialists, who sometimes can become  so enamoured of the systems, that they forget why they were created:  to support the business, to make it easier to achieve better results.

Now, I admit that I have a bias towards action, but I worry that this obsession with process is a great way to avoid having to do anything.  And perhaps it makes me reflect a bit on our own system, which certainly has its own bias to process.  Is this the price we pay to live in a comfortable country? Does inattention to process lead to chaos and ineffective public institutions?  Does anyone get the balance right?  

Oh, I pray that the fog that is clouding my brain will lift!  Perhaps I need to eat more fish....and so, off to dinner in Norway!

1 comment:

  1. Well, I hope the cloud lifts in the warmth of India. However, I don't think it is either/or (hierarchical vs collaborative). All systems have a mix, and the real challenge is to find the right balance. Hierarchical does not necessarily imply micro-management or micro control. Hope you are getting some sleep (other than at meetings with Eurocrats)