Dr Simon Western is CEO of Analytic Network Coaching, Adjunct Professor University College Dublin and President International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organisations. Simon has international experience as an academic, leadership coach and strategic consultant. He delivers numerous keynotes on the topic of “New Leadership for new Times” He has authored 3 acclaimed books, Global Leadership Perspectives with Eric-Jean Gautier, Leadership a critical text (3rd Edition), and Coaching and Mentoring a Critical text, 2nd edition. Simon challenges conventional wisdom and offers insights into how leadership is changing in light of the digital age
Podcast episode summary: In this episode Simon speaks to the need for a more humanitarian approach to leadership remembering to put the Human at the heart of any project. He shares his analysis of Leadership and in particular the 4 discourses of leadership encountered over the last 100 years. The Eco-Leadership is necessary for our digitised and networked society and to address the many complex challenges we face today, such as Climate Change.
Noteworthy points of discussion
- Simon adopts a very practical approach to his work. He considers himself an anthropologist in organisations looking and listening for what needs to emerge.
- He adopts a critical questioning approach, informed by his understanding of Critical Theory, Networked Theory, Social Movement theory and Psychoanalysis.
- Because of the frenetic pace of work and the demands made of us many people are struggling to find their authentic selves.
- Simon supports clients to really “experience their experience” and his methodology can be described as a process of journeying through 5 Frames of analysis: The Depth Frame, The Relationship Frame, The Leadership Frame, The Networked Frame and finally the Strategic Frame. This approach disrupts people’s conventional way of doing things, too often rational, linear and flat.
- Simon shared the evolution of leadership over the course of the last 100 years to comprise Four distinct discourses. These discourses include, The Controller Leadership discourse, which often dehumanises the workplace, the Therapist Leadership discourse, making work more democratic and looking at what motivates people to the Messiah Leadership discourse as a way of leading that asks for a transformational leader, someone who is visionary and can signal a purpose for the entity, that others follow to finally the last discourse called the ECO Leadership discourse. This discourse is a Meta theory, which is about getting the other three discourses in balance in an organisation.
- Progressive leaders and organisations see the need for understanding Eco Leadership, they appreciate we are living in an Eco-System, a networked society but making the transition from the other leadership discourses is not easy. It is a mindset shift.
- Often pressures on teams’ forces people inexorably back to the controller leadership discourse of the comfort of the Messiah and Therapist discourse. Important to hold the tension, to pause, reflect, question and look awry
- We are not taught in a way to appreciate systems, to think spatially and to question. Our education system encourages individualism and siloed thinking.
- We are experiencing a paradigm shift forced on us by digitisation and it is important for us to adapt, for Simon this means people need to put themselves into the world and not retreat, to “experience the experience “and to be real.
- Curiosity is key.
Resources: the following include the resources we alluded to over the course of our conversation
- Leadership a Critical Text (3rd Edition) 2018, by Western, Simon
- Coaching and Mentoring, a Critical Text (2nd Edition) by Western, Simon
- Global Leadership Perspectives, Western, Simon and Gautier, Eric-Jean, 2018