Meeting the Cognitive Demands of Leading in Times of Uncertainty

Meeting the Cognitive Demands of Leading in Times of Uncertainty

Al Lauzon (University of Guelph, Canada)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch031
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Abstract

This chapter proposes to ask the question “What are the cognitive demands of contemporary leadership?” The chapter begins by exploring the changes we have experienced and continue to experience, and their implications for leadership. These changes will be explored in the context of wicked problems and followed by a section of the implications of wicked problems for leadership. The argument will then be made that in examining the various challenges and opportunities we are being presented with a demand for a structure of consciousness beyond that of modernity's rational-logic. This will be followed by the articulation of an evolutionary framework and its dynamics that focuses on the evolution of consciousness. A specific focus will be on the emergence of a new structure of consciousness—vision-logic— as the necessary structure of consciousness for leaders contending with wicked problems and uncertain times. I will close by looking at the implications for leaders.
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Introduction

The historians Lukacs (2002) and Hobsbawm (1994) have argued that the 1980s constitutes the beginning of a radical transformation of the developed world. During the 1980s we begin to see the decline of the Keynesian welfare state in earnest and neoliberalism begins its ascent with its restructuring of the economy through trade liberalization, dominance of the market over the state, and the development of a global economy. These changes correspond temporally with the increasing sense of urgency as it relates to environmental degradation and the need for a collective response as documented in the World Commission on Environment and Development report titled Our Common Future (1987). With the rise of neoliberalism, economic globalization and increased liberalization of trade the United Nations (1992) was incredibly optimistic, arguing that neoliberalism and economic globalization would raise all boats with the rising tide of a new economic order founded upon increased freedom for people. Yet that is not the world that evolved and we now have a world characterized by increasing inequality both between and within countries coupled with recognition of global climate change and its potential physical, social, financial and political impacts, along with continued environmental destruction. Lauzon (2015) has noted that these changes are rooted in confronting what are known as “wicked problems”. The allusion of a predictable and controllable world has been undermined as we must now admit we live in a time of continuous and often disruptive and transformative change where there is a need for leaders to facilitate the development of resilience, be it in organizations or communities in order to foster our adaptive capacity. The question then arises how do we lead and manage in a chaotic environment characterized by continuous and disruptive change in a “shrinking” world while striving to develop resilience? Lauzon (2013) has argued that this constitutes a shift from the modern worldview to a more participatory worldview. This worldview, I believe, requires a new form of leadership rooted in a different order of consciousness; leaders need to be exploring the cognitive frontiers of an emerging form of consciousness as they grapple with the challenges and opportunities that face us collectively as presented through wicked problems.

This chapter proposes to ask the question “What are the cognitive demands of contemporary leadership?” The chapter begins by exploring the various changes we have experienced and continue to experience, and the implications they have for leadership. These changes will be explored in the context of wicked problems and followed by a section of the implications of wicked problems for leadership. The argument will then be made that in examining the various challenges and opportunities we are being presented with a demand for a structure of consciousness beyond that of modernity’s rational-logic. This will be followed by the articulation of an evolutionary framework and its dynamics that focuses not on biological evolution, but on the evolution of consciousness. This evolutionary framework has been captured in the thinking of numerous intellectual leaders, including the German social theorist Jurgen Habermas, the philosopher Ken Wilber and the futurist Jeremy Rifkin. A specific focus will be on the emergence of a new structure of consciousness—vision-logic— as the necessary structure of consciousness for leaders contending with wicked problems and uncertain times. I will close by looking at the implications for leaders.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Wicked Problems: There is no definitive formulation of a problem as differing stakeholders subscribing to different valuative frameworks, will view the problem differently.

Vision-Logic: The capacity of an individual to utilize post formal operations in conjunction with dialectical logic.

Dialectic Logic: Logic that is focused on form and change that allows differing bounded systems of thought to engage and through engagement create a new, novel system that is a synthesis of the previous systems.

Formal Operations: Logical use of symbols related to abstract concepts premised on a set of assumptions; it is a bounded system.

Post Formal Operations: A stage of cognitive development beyond formal operations that provides the individual with the capacity to recognize that there may be competing or contradictory bounded systems of thought that are rational as they are congruent with the assumptions on which they are premised.

Rational Logic: To use reason to make sense by following the principles of logic; congruent with the assumptions upon which it is premised.

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