Leading in Wicked Times: A Radical Shift to Inquiry, Humility, and Fairness
25 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2020 Last revised: 22 Jan 2021
Date Written: August 5, 2020
We argue that humanity is facing an increasing number of wicked problems, including the current COVID pandemics. Wicked problems are novel, complex, without a single “right” answer, and provide an ultimate test of true leadership, as distinct from management. We suggest that effective leadership in the face of wicked problems calls for a very different set of virtues than those traditionally associated with leadership. These virtues include both confidence and humility, decisiveness and fairness, empathy and courage. We discuss the specific leadership behaviors through which leaders can enact these virtues. Importantly, we suggest that in the face of wicked problems, different behaviors are required at each of the five stages of making decisions: framing the problem, exploring alternatives, “taking” decision, execution, and learning. We illustrate using examples of Jacinda Ardern, Angela Merkel, Gretchen Whitmer, Charlie Baker, and Andrew Cuomo, amongst others.
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