What is 3e Leadership?

According to a new leadership book, 3e stands for envisioning, engaging and executing. The concept can be traced back to earlier work on Funky Capitalism by the book’s Swedish celebrity-economist author

Around the heady days of the new millennium, a lively book on an old subject emerged from the Financial Times business series. It dealt with the new business world of creativity and ideas. Capitalism, it proclaimed, was transforming itself along the lines of popular culture.

The spirit of the book was captured by a reviewer

Oh dear–a book called Funky Business by two Swedish academics. At first glance it has all the allure of Benny and Bjorn’s (from Abba) sadly never released concept album about life as a middle manger in a multinational conglomerate.

There is something very earnestly hip about the way that Kjell Nordstrom and Jonas Ridderstrale of the Stockholm School Of Economics present themselves. “They do gigs not seminars. These gigs sell out. They have shaved heads and wear black”, says the blurb.
But that’s what makes Funky Business worth reading. It’s not so much the novelty of its argument–which boils down to the idea that in an oversupplied world, ideas are what separate successful companies and successful individuals from the failures. It is the vitality of the argument and, dare I say it, the rhythm of the language that make it so compelling.

Now Ridderstrale has linked up with Brit Mark Wilcox to form an Anglo-Swedish team. They offer a more traditional treatment, delivering a how-to-do-it programme for business transformation. The mood-music has become more earnest, evangelical, and executive-friendly as it extols the principles of 3e leadership.

3e leadership

The shift from Abba to Abbey Life can be detected in Wiley’s blurb to Re-energizing the Corporation:

Re-energizing The Corporation is built on the groundbreaking 3e leadership model which makes sense of the three Es of Envisioning, Engaging and Executing. By understanding and following the model, you will be able to create compelling pictures of the future of your organization; build a following of individuals committed to getting the vision into reality; and maximize team performance to deliver on your dream.

That’s all right then. Nothing too funky to scare the suits. Indeed, the sparking prose which was so hailed as so much a feature of Ridderstrale’s earlier gigs seems to have been heavily censored.

In defense of the authors, you can’t read too much from a marketing blurb. There are unreconstructed marketing folk out there, even at the heart of the creative industries. They collect information from authors on their next year’s titles, and then convert the ideas into marketing business-speak for the catalogues and assorted publicity media. ‘Avoid clichés like cutting-edge’, I was advised, when undertaking this duty for an up-coming book. So I did my best. Then my cliché-lite suggestions were still rewritten as o a cutting-edge book for all proactive leadersor some such mangled version of what I had proposed.

Don’t get confused

3e leadership is easy to confuse with similar-sounding corporate offerings. For example, 3E is a Californian firm specializing in environmental issues. 3e is the Wilcox and Ridderstrale approach to corporate transformation. You can kind more on their website whch includes a very MBA-like three-D chart.

I missed the pre-launch publicity, and came across it only after I received a request to run a workshop on 3e leadership. (Thanks, but no thanks, Peggy. I’ll pass on that, if only because I have overdosed for some while on promises to help organizations envision engage and execute.

Jonas and Mark may well be on to something. But it’s a competitive market. You’ll have to read the book and decide for yourself.

There’s a case example in Dilemmas of Leadership (The Departure Lounge Dilemma) on having to evaluate the merits of a book which has captured the attention of your boss.

Me? I’m off to find a copy of the earlier Abba version to be found in Funky Capitalism.

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