Creating an alternative to the patriarchal model-Learning with Peter Block, friend and kindred soul

I first met Peter when I attended his globally acclaimed workshop on ‘The Empowered Manager’ in 1990. We instantly connected and have become life long friends.Over the years, we facilitated several workshops together and he also played a major role in our work with the cooperative movement involving 9 million farmers for the white revolution inspired by the legendary Dr V Kurien.

  1. A few years back, ‘People Matters’, interviewed us to learn from our shared story of making organizations more inspiring and nourishing.

In conversation with Anil Sachdev, founder of SOIL and Peter Block, author and consultant about creating a distinct future through partnership

These five pillars of ‘Inspired’ leadership have the power to overcome the unprecedented challenges of our times.

There is nothing that destroys performance more than performance reviews

In conversation with Anil Sachdev, founder of SOIL and Peter Block, author and consultant about creating a distinct future through partnership

Peter, tell us more about your evolution from the ‘change agent’ for institutions as represented by you in ‘Flawless Consulting’ and the work that brings you to change communities to create an alternative future.

 There are things that happen in your life that changes your interest and focus. I was in the Philippines in the early nineties, just after the revolution and that made me realize that people in the community arena are more passionate and I like being in a room with committed people. I have said everything I had to say about institutions, the community offer a much larger and complex area.

Peter, what do you think is unique about leadership in India?

 What is unique is that you can bring a spiritual dimension in the leadership conversation without the hesitation of being relevant. There is also more innocence in India and the social distance is not that big here, you would expect it is because of the social structure in India but here CEO can be in the same room as the rest of employees and it is not a big deal.

Anil, how do you think Indian leadership is different?

 The concept of leadership is different in different parts of the world based on the different cultural and social aspects. For example, in Europe people have compartments in their life with greater difference between professional and personal dimensions. In India, there is a new confidence and energy. Leadership has this new confidence and energy within, but you can also see the evolution towards compassion and return to the roots as part of this tendency.

What is Inspired Leadership?

 Peter: What makes a great leader is to be a good human being. It makes me uncomfortable to define leadership as a set of competencies or skills. I get nervous when you say we will train leaders. Leadership is a quality inherent to human and not a quality associated with people at the top. Humanity and authenticity are human qualities, and yet very rare to find today. The education

system and the institutions split individuals between Me a working person and Me as a human being. A child that loves to learn…we transform him into a performer. And when we say performance is the point, then the humanity is being stolen.

 Anil: If you truly understand what your life calling is, you deeply know what your gifts are, and if you find work that helps you use your gifts towards your life purpose that is the authentic living,

which is authentic leadership. Leadership is a four dimensional process, leadership of the body and leadership of the mind, leadership of the intellect and leadership of the consciousness. If there is integrity between all these dimensions and your purpose, only then can you be authentic. 

 Peter: This is leadership from the spiritual and psychological sense, for me I am more of sociology and anthropologist, for me leadership is in the context of the community and the organization. I feel leaders have lost their authenticity because of our expectations from them. We seat leaders on such a pedestal that they have to fall.

Tell us more about how conversations can transform organizations?

 Peter: I believe that transformation is linguistic; there has been a strong movement in the last 10 year about how changing your story can change your life. There is also evidence that shows that performance is a communal act and not an individual effort. All performance is collective, there is no such thing as outstanding individual performance, and it is a myth. If that is true, that means you need the community to create a change.

There is no evidence that high performance comes from incentive pays or from performance appraisal. I believe it is not true. Conversations and engagements bring high performance because it leads to high relatedness and high connection and every evidence we have is that performance is a team function. So how you create a good team? Engaging in a conversation, this is not new… we have been doing team building since the sixties, because it works.

So the basis of the traditional management does not work?

 Peter: There is nothing that destroys performance more than performance reviews. It is an institutional form of claiming sovereignty over another human being. We have this methodology about performance pay, about performance review, feedback, working on deficiencies… and this has been around for more than 20 years and it does not work, it has no effect but negative. But the patriarchal system is so powerful – these are the pillars of the patriarch. The only evidence I see in the US is between paying executives with stock options and unethical illegal behaviour.

Companies have started to shift; smart corporations break themselves in smaller groups, many things are changing in those organizations by getting rid of the patriarchal system. The fact that SOIL exists means that there is a desire from corporations for a different style of leadership. Some organizations are so committed to this patriarchal system that they prefer to die than to change.

  Anil: Many Indian companies have taken steps in changing their internal models towards engaging and creating an internal community. For Indian leaders, the value of relationship comes naturally from culture and tradition so we have seen this trait in the way that organizations function internally.   

Anil Sachdev