The most intriguing aspect of post-Gareth Southgate’s English performance is the explosion of interest in organisational psychology. Suddenly my LinkedIn is littered with articles on leadership, culture and learning. Most of which are frankly garbage. Having spent 27 long years reading a lot of this rubbish I can safely say I know what I’m talking about.
The central issue is, and it is theoretically quite complex, the things that are being discussed do not actually exist.
When we talk about ‘leadership’ there is no person I can say ‘see him over there he’s a leader’ because what works in one context, sucks in another. Take Winston Churchill in British history. He would be generally agreed to be the man who pulled the country together during WWII, however, anyone know long he actually lasted in office after WWII ended? Personally, no idea and not motivated enough to Google it. Point is he was a man for the time.
Culture is another one. Show me your culture. Seriously where is it? How long before you start telling me about identity, stories, rituals and behaviours. Anthropologists – those whose job it is to study culture – still have no idea how to define it. Endless papers arguing the toss.
Identity yet another one. Ok are we talking about having an identity which is fixed or fluid? What do I mean? Well let’s assume you think you have an ‘I’, you know the one who does the thinking. Rightio, is that the same ‘I’ as when you were born? When you were 5? In fact, is it the same ‘I’ as the one who watched Southgate’s young team confound? Do you have multiple ‘I’s? You know at work, home, with family, friends or are you the same ‘I’ always? And if you are the same ‘I’, why are you investing in learning about change anyhow? You are doomed to fail surely?
Point? Well, it’s this. If you read something like ‘culture is everything’, ‘flexible, engaged leadership is the way to achieve success’ or any other such pop psychology cure-for-all ills – step away from the article, it’s over selling itself and is theoretical blind alley. All of these ideas are simply that: ideas. They are only conceptual tools to help you think, assess, reflect and grow.
Sorry folks but there is no ‘answer’ and if you have a consultant proudly declare their package will sort your culture/leadership/identity issue right out, do yourself a favour and keep your hand on your wallet.