Fisher at Rotman

Mr. Fisher and Mr. Trump

A couple of weeks ago, I returned to Toronto for  Reunite@Rotman, an annual alumni homecoming event of the Rotman School of Management. One of the keynote speakers was Jim Fisher. Professor Fisher’s class on leadership was an important and inspiring part of my Executive MBA program and he delivered a timely reminder of how much I appreciated his approach and his leadership model.

As Jim’s students we had received a pdf of a manuscript that has now been puslished in book form: The Thoughtful Leader. In the book he discusses his model of Integrative Leadership that I find to be an incredibly helpful tool to think about your own leadership skills, or to analyze and discuss the leadership that we are experiencing in organizations.

However, what I find more important than even the best analytical tool, is Jim Fisher’s emporering explanation of leadership as an activity that we can all learn and work on. You will have to read the book, but here are my three key takeaways:

  1. The ability to lead does not depend on a specific set of character traits or attributes. Leadership is not hereditary, there are no “natural” leaders. Leadership is not a talent.
  2. Quite the contrary: Leadership is hard work. It requires a lot of listening, observing, empathizing, and thinking.
  3. Not just any thinking, but the kind of integrative thinking that enables us to creatively resolve the tension in competing and complex models of the world by forming entirely new ones.

What these insights meant for Jim Fisher was that leadership became a teachable subjets. What they mean for us at PLOT is that leadership is something we might be able to help you with.

And what does all this have to do with Mr. Trump? Unfortunately it has more to do with the poor leadership offered by Mrs. Clinton and her party. Without going too deep into Jim Fisher’s model, let me just paraphrase that leadership begins with a plan, a vision and a set of values. And while we must strongly disagree with the plan (building a wall), the vision (making America great “again”) and the implied values presented by Mr. Trump, we must also acknowledge that he successfully involved, aligned and mobilized his followers. Mrs. Clinton? Not so much.

Whether in the Democratic Party in the United States, or at the upcoming elections in France and Germany, if we want to advance progressive politics, we need to rediscover and work hard on our leadership skills. “The Times They Are A Changin’” again – in business and in politics. Past experience is no longer enough, not to guide a business through change, growth or innovation and certainly not to win elections. We all want to be involved and aligned around a plan and a vision based on shared values. The good news: We can all be better leaders if we talk and think about it and put in the work. Let’s get started today.


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