Friday, 25 October 2013

With power comes responsibility - Kim B Clark Fellowship at Said Business School

Some notes and reflections from my visit to Oxford for the launch event of the Kim B Clark Fellowship in Responsible Leadership at Saїd Business School, Oxford University on Saturday 7 September.

At this event Professor Tufano (Dean of Said Business School) welcomed four speakers to share their thoughts..

 - Kim B. Clark, in whose honour the Fellowship is named, President of Brigham Young University, Idaho, and formerly Dean, Harvard Business School.
- Clayton Christensen, Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School; Visiting Professor, Saïd Business School; the first recipient of the Kim B. Clark Fellowship.
- Kim S. Cameron, Professor of Management and Organisations, Ross School of Business.
- Charles Conn, Warden, Rhodes House, University of Oxford.

The talk was recorded and is available on the SBS YouTube Channel here

If you don't have a couple of hours free to watch the recording here are some of they key points I took away from it...

Clayton Christensen was the first speaker.  He encouraged that people be taught how to think and stressed the importance of theories. Often theories get a bad press with people more interested in taking action.  However, like it or not, our chosen course of action will be based on some belief that we hold on how things should work.  Equipping leaders with good theories and an understanding of what circumstances they would work in would help to improve the decisions that they take.

Next up we had Kim Cameron who started by looking at some dimension of "Responsible".  Could be in the sense of reliable, dependable, someone who follows through.  Could also be responsible for something, in charge of assets, or people.  Can also be about doing the right thing, creating goodness and this is the angle that he focused on with regard to responsible leadership.  Introduced idea of virtuousness and how there are some things that are globally agreed in humankind such as being kind rather than abusive,  better to be helpful than not.

I liked his idea of a "deviance continuum" - one one end we have negative abberant behaviour, in the middle we have normal behaviour and on the right positive deviance.  Organisations exist to reduce deviance - we organise ourselves to reduce chaotic aberrant behaviour.   In many contexts our focus is on reducing the negative abberance.  eg medical research into resolving medical problems versus how we could go from healthy to spectacular.  Responsible leaders are those that enrich life, they focus on the best of the human condition - ie virtuousness. At 40 mins through the video he discusses some examples of how responsible leadership can have positive business outcomes in terms of hard numbers as well as things like morale.

Charles Conn shared some interesting thoughts on Rhodes who had big ideas, big ideals, was greatly admired and had some very positive impacts.   Would not however be seen as a responsible leader.  Good ends we could agree with but means of achieving them were often less than positive.  For a responsible leader it's not just the ends that matter - it's the means as well.  He closed with a discussion of the clothing company Patagonia and their fanatical pursuit to be responsible and do no unnecessary harm.

Peter Tufano talked about 3 levels that relate to responsible leadership - Individual, Organisaton, Broader system.   We can get people sensitised to issues and may even get them to say they will take a particular course of action but often we fall short of our good intentions.  One question we need to reflect on then is how do you create an organisation that encourages more responsible behaviour versus a system that does the opposite.  Quoted Ignatius and his warning on the route from riches to honours to pride as a way to failure ... how often though might people view following this path instead as success?

The final speaker was Kim B Clark.  Listening to him it was clear why this fellowship is named in his honour. He is introduced around 1hr 15mins into the video - if you were to pick one person to listen to on the replay start with him.  He noted that "Leadership is always and everywhere a moral act" - every leader takes the life of others in their hands and will affect it though their actions.  Responsible leadership isn't just about the heart it's also about the mind, need to be able to motivate others, be decisive etc.  What we need in our leaders is a responsible heart and a powerful mind - tough minded but not hard hearted.

If you are interested in seeing what someone else took from the event I found this write up on the Deseret News website