Rainbow leadership. Let’s not do a black or white on Green

Retail billionaire Philip Green appears before a parliamentary committee over his governance of British Home Stores.  He is already cast in the role of villain by some, and a heroic defender of entrepreneurial success for others. There is need for more rainbow leadership, as I will explain

The specific news story in this post deals with Sir Philip’s appearance before the Work and Pensions Committee. I also introduce a new approach to leadership, which I have labelled rainbow leadership.

What is rainbow leadership?

Rainbow leadership attempts to relocate leadership understanding through the ‘whole spectrum’ metaphor of a rainbow.

It stands alongside earlier attempts to present alternative images of reality, such as are found in the classic text Images of Organization by Gareth Morgan. The existing and familiar metaphors include the machine metaphor, the network or brain metaphor, the culture metaphor, the organic metaphor, and so on.

The rainbow metaphor connects particularly easily with interpretational approaches to exploring the real and the imagined.  In my own writings it is implied in my various treatments of creative thinking, and most recently in Dilemmas of Leadership, earlier this year. Specifically, there is emphasis on ‘Yes and’ thinking, and its comparison with Either Or thinking, for which the metaphor is often black and white or binary thinking.

What’s black and white and red all over?

What’s black and white and red all over? The Christmas Cracker teaser only works if it is spoken not written. Rainbow thinking is, according to its metaphor red, green, blue and other colours which together may recombine into white.  Rainbow leadership recognizes this part-whole issue and deals with it rather than trying to over-analyse (splitting it down to its parts).

Black and white and Green

Leaders we deserve has followed the turbulent career of Philip Green since our blog started ten years ago. His titanic battles for ownership of M&S revealed Green’s pugnacious (sometimes literally) leadership style in the heavyweight category against Stuart Rose.

His appearance today [15 June 2016] focuses on his sale of his vast retail interests in British Home Stores for a peppercorn £1 with a modest sweetener towards its huge pension liabilities. The new owners were either a brilliantly visionary group of entrepreneurs, or a bunch of body snatchers.

Its new leader, Dominic Chappell, was described earlier by The Mirror as

an ex-racing car driver and former bankrupt. In a last desperate effort to rescue the company, Mr Chappell was reported to have moved £1.5 million from the company in an imaginative but ill-fated manoeuvre more suited to the racing track. He has since paid most of it back.

The Chairman of the select committee, Frank Field, spiced up today’s contest in advance. His remarks were followed by Sir Philip’s calling for his resignation, and threatening to pull out of the ‘invitation’.

This risks further censure. Calls have been made for his Knighthood to be withdrawn.

Back to rainbow leadership

The select committee has been accused of lacking the Rottweiler style of its former Chair, Margaret Hodge. My viewing last week suggested that their conversations  with Mike Ashley showed more than a hint of rainbow leadership.

Ashley, famed for his impulsive and confrontational style, was himself more conciliatory, accepting his corporate deficiencies. He even accepted that his company had broken the minimum wage employment legislation.

It will be interesting to see whether Sir Philip also enters into this spirit of rainbow leadership today.

To be continued

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