Charismatic Animals

September 7, 2015

How far is it helpful to extend the construct of charisma into the animal world?Desert Orchid

For many people there is little doubt. Some animals are treated as ‘the special ones’, just as is the case for humans.

Race horses are already genetically special ones, bred for performance. In this respect they begin life as ‘born to lead’, and receive intensive training to release their natural potential.

Desert Orchid

A classic example from the 1980s in England was Desert Orchid, a magnificent white creature (or grey, in racing parlance). His spectacular appearance, coupled with his front running style and stamina, gave him iconic status. Dessie seemed to enjoy attention, enthralling his audiences as he cantered up to the start, or as he paused to acknowledge applause. His National Jump racing results were exceptional, considered to place him among the top six hurdlers of all time.

Janice Coyne, long-serving stable girl, had to defend Dessie after a rare act of its petulance. “He’s only human” she protested.

Red Rum and Sea Biscuit

In some contrast is the more plebeian courage and stamina of two other horse legends, Red Rum and Sea Biscuit. Whereas Dessie had an ethereal beauty, neither Red Rum nor Sea Biscuit stood out for their natural grace among the other horses on parade.

Red Rum suffered from a form of arthritis that threatened his career and left him with a rather ungainly gait. Under different circumstances he might not have been spared from an early end. To add to evident physical weaknesses he was lethargic in training and inclined to prefer sleep over exercise. He was not even bred for jump racing at which he excelled. He was to become one of the greatest of racers over Aintree’s’ Grand National course, an idol for his fans. He was to star in films and books about his remarkable career. On retirement, he appeared on the celebrity circuit ahead of B List humans in demand for opening charity events and supermarkets.

Sea Biscuit, an earlier sensation in American horse racing history, was as unpromising as a foal as Red Rum. Undersized, ungainly, almost unmanageable, the damaged horse was rescued by an equally scarred Jockey. The combination released Sea Biscuit’s potential. During the Great Depression the horse became a symbol of hope and even a money earner for the near defeated masses who backed it.

Perfection and hope

I think of Dessie as symbolizing perfection; Red Rum and Sea Biscuit as symbolizing hope, and triumph of the weak over the privileged, the flawed over the perfect. Or maybe  beauty. as is often suggested, lies in the eye of the beholder.


To Susan Moger for her unrivaled knowledge of equine history

The power of Yes And thinking

April 8, 2015

NHS Health Check

Susan Moger and Tudor Rickards

The power of Yes And thinking is explored within a workshop on Taking Tough Decisions: A creative problem-solving approach. as part of the Fifth National Medical Leadership conference 17th April 2015 at the Macron Stadium, Bolton

This post is based on an earlier document which we used regularly with MBA students at Manchester Business School over a period of years. We have retained it in its original form, and appended references to subsequent work.

We believe that the climate for creative ideas can often be negative. As a shorthand, we talk about a YES BUT climate in which people are prone to respond to any new idea with a ‘Yes But’.  This negative mind-set is based on unconsciously held beliefs and we can weaken these by becoming conscious, to the extent of becoming self-conscious of ‘Yes Butting’. In this way we begin to reduce the damage caused by excessive Yes Butting by substituting ‘Yes and’.

Yes but’ implies ‘There is something wrong with this idea. I want nothing further to do with this bad idea’.

In contrast, ‘Yes And’ implies ‘There is something that can be improved about this idea. I am willing to work at it to improve it as best I can’.

To take a simple example:

‘I have just thought of the idea of flypaper to go in cars to stop insects distracting you when you are driving’.

‘Yes But … wherever you put it someone would get stuck sooner or later’.

‘Yes And … if you could design it so that passengers never get stuck it would be even better. How about an insecticide block or the paper inside a mesh with fly attractant. Or how about combining it with the air freshener?

Note: In follow-up studies of participants on our courses, more find they have applied ‘Yes And’ to benefit than any other technique.

Since we wrote the manual [sometime in the 1990s] we have continued to find Yes And a powerful means of overcoming negativity, promoting creativity, addressing tough leadership dilemmas, and resolving communication difficulties. It engages with issues of positive psychology, discursive communications theory.and conflict resolution approaches.


We acknowledge encouragement from Dr Rebecca Baron for reviving this note  as a contribution to The National Leadership Conference, and Shropshire NHS for the creative image urging Health Checks..

The overall Yes And approach was published as The Power of the And in The Handbook for creative team leaders . We further revised it in The Routledge Companion To Creativity,  and in Dilemmas of Leadership

Creative Leadership: Broken Windows, Maps and Dilemmas

June 13, 2014

Creative Leadership: Broken Windows, Maps and Dilemmas illustrates an approach for changing dysfunctional environments into more positive and creative ones

Creative leadership: broken windows, maps and dilemmas from Tudor Rickards

Who Broke my Windows?

The Broken Windows approach was initially used as a way of understanding how the quality of a physical environment can influence criminal behaviour. Thinking about this in terms of a creative climate we suggest that neglect of a physical working environment, together with poor quality personal behaviours (lack of courtesy, sarcasm and so on) can lead to a deteriorating atmosphere in which people feel demoralised and that their work is of no value. This leads to a downward spiral of performance and morale which can be very difficult to deal with.

We know from the work of Teresa Amabile, Steve Kramer, Goran Ekvall and others that behaviours are critical to sustaining a creative climate. If put under the stress of change we can all behave poorly, without realising it and without meaning to. It is the role of a creative leader to understand how these behaviours happen and how they might be addressed.

The unintended behaviours are

Being Rude
Being Greedy
Having Favourites

And the way to address them is to think about

Connecting and

so as to involve individuals, teams, and wider social groupings.

To be continued

By popular request: what happened to David Moyes?

April 25, 2014

MacBeth wikipediaThe dismissal of David Moyes as Manager of Manchester United in April 2014 was both expected and unexpected.

It was expected

It was expected when media reports [April 21st 2014] announced his imminent departure, days after a Premier League defeat of his team, confirming there would be no European Cup matches next season.

Campaigns for his removal were gaining pace from disgruntled fans through the media. By mid-afternoon, a perfect storm was brewing on Twitter. A few scraps of information were repeatedly retweeted. ‘Moyes sacked. Moyes is about to be sacked. Moyes will be sacked soon/at the weekend/at the of the season.’

It was unexpected

It was unexpected because despite the poor record of the team, Moyes had been appointed as the choice of the departing Manager, the iconic and hugely successful Sir Alex Ferguson. He was understood to have been chosen for the long-term. In an emotional farewell speech to a packed stadium at Old Trafford, Sir Alex urged fans to get behind the newly-chosen one. His own last season had been a triumph of psychology over the aging legs of his team which finished Premier League champions.

Neither expected nor unexpected considerations took account of the preoccupations of the owners of the club, the American entrepreneurs, the Glazers. Their financial model has been widely recognized as involving finance of a creative kind to reduce their entrepreneurial risks When results disappointed, Moyes would have been seen as adding to the riskiness of their investment. Ten months into his long-term contract, he was toast.

‘It were well done quickly ‘

The club confirmed through Twitter the following morning that Moyes had been dismissed. It turned out he had been told the news very early that morning.

The timing was said to have been chosen to meet the requirements of information released to investors on the NY Stock markets.

The hunt for red assassins

I was surprised at the extent of the coverage of the story locally and globally. The early print editions of the British media had given it high visibility on the sports pages, writing as if his immediate dismissal was certain before the official announcement.

The early morning news bulletins followed suit, clearing the way for interviews with assorted pundits and players. When the news broke, the hunt for the assassins began. MacBeth morphed into Julius Caesar.

The poisoned chalice

Someone contacted me suggesting I should write about the poisoned chalice that David Moyes had received. Or hospital pass, I replied, remembering a tweet I received on the topic. Incidentally, the poisoned chalice is mentioned in the soliloquy by MacBeth which begins ‘if it were done when tis done….’

Another colleague wondered whether Moyes had indicated through his body language that he was not convinced that he was up to the job? Maybe, although there is something of a catch 22 around that line of questioning. Any authentic leader would recognize the foolishly high expectations of the fans on match day and as the game was being played. Anyone with super confident body language would likely be deluded or faking it.

The routinization of charisma

I go back to the pronouncement of Sir Alex regarding the appointment of his successor. In leadership terms, the former leader was deploying his emotional credit banked with the fans. It is known as an attempt to achieve the routinization of charisma. Sir Alex had acquired enormous credibility for his near miraculous powers of leadership. Much was attributed to the mystique of his charismatic personality. In practice, dilemmas arise, not least as the fans/followers reflect more rationally over the credibility of the replacement.

This analysis does not investigate the motives behind the appointment of David Moyes. Nor does it reflect on his tactical judgements of team selection and on-field substitutions. I leave the former to speculation by media pundits, and the latter to the larger number of pundits also known as football fans. What does seem to make sense is that the leadership issues at Manchester Unite can hardly be reduced to a simple error of judgement either in the selection of David Moyes, or in his dismissal.


To Susan Moger, Paul Haslam, Paul Hinks, Keven Holton, Ewan Leith, who were among colleagues who encouraged me put some ideas down for discussion on this fascinating leadership issue. To Wikipedia for the poster image of MacBeth.

Watch this space for further updates

April 25, 2014

Edward Spalton says:

Probably the best comment on this episode was by Richard North of that UKIP should try to recruit Moyes because he got United out of Europe in ten months.

Exerting His Influence

March 9, 2014

Susan Moger

by Susan Moger

He may never have heard of management writer Stephen R. Covey and his theory of working within your ‘Circle of Influence’. However, that is exactly how 8 year old Caydon Taiplalus, from Michigan, USA acted, when he saw a classmate refused a hot school meal

His friend did not have the money to pay for the food. When Caydon got home, he began to collect used cans and bottles and small change from his relatives. His fundraising raised $64 and this was enough to pay off the deficit on his classmates’ lunch accounts so that they could have a hot school meal.

The Circle of Influence

Stephen R. Covey urges individuals to develop a proactive attitude by working in their ‘Circle of Influence’ He suggests that we can all be more effective if we recognise that we operate in a Circle of Influence and a Circle of Concern.

The Circle of Concern

Our Circle of Concern includes things that we cannot directly control (the climate, our organisational structure, our relatives, past disagreements). This contrasts with Circle of Influence which includes things we can directly do something about, including our behaviour and our responses to situations. By being active and positive we can increase our Circle of Influence, by being passive and negative we can decrease it. Positive behaviour can also draw other people to us, even if we didn’t originally intend to do this.

Caydon works in his circle of influence

Now totally committed to his idea with help from family and friends, Caydon has developed a website and recently had collected $7,000, to help other children in Michigan and beyond whose parents are struggling to find the money to pay for a hot school meal.
‘It isn’t right that kids go hungry at school and if I can do something about it I will’, he says.

If we all took our cue from Caydon and ‘did what we could’, then perhaps maybe things that ‘aren’t right’ wouldn’t stay that way.

[Susan is Senior Fellow in Leadership at Manchester Business School. Her work involves directing executive programmes. Susan also teaches leadership on MBSW MBA programmes.]

How leaders support (and sometimes hinder) corporate innovation

September 13, 2011

Research shows that leadership commitment can be a powerful supporting factor within global new product development projects. However, the commitment can also have an inhibiting effect

The surprising result emerged from prize-winning study by a team of researchers from Europe and America who studied the relationships between leadership commitment and effectiveness of new product development (NPD) projects surveying nearly 400 global business units.

The paper by Elko Kleinschmidt, Ulrike De Brentani, and Søren Salomo won the Susan Moger and Tudor Rickards best paper award for 2010, voted by the editorial board of Creativity and Innovation Management Journal.

The study

The study draws on information processing theories of innovation which explore the relationships between information technology deployment and knowledge conversion into new products. The researchers examined the impact of senior managers internally as moderating factors in the process.

Such research requires the most careful attention to methodology to arrive at claims for reliability and conceptual validity of conclusions. The difficulties increase when the studies are multi-level (internal to the firm, and out into the wider global environment). The authors are careful to address these issues.

The anticipated findings

Among the anticipated findings was the conventional wisdom that top management commitment enhances innovation efforts. The authors were to find the view only partially confirmed.

The actual findings

“The research indicates that Senior Management Involvement does not impact global NPD outcome directly, but that there are significant interactions with the two [internal environmental factors]. One may speculate that Senior Management Involvement permeates all aspects of international NPD – but, in a leadership, visioning and delegating fashion – and that its real impact on performance is primarily indirect, through its moderation of all related systems and activities”.

The research adds evidence to another suspicion among technical professions, that top management enthusiasm for a technological fix may result in over-zealous involvement and perhaps ‘meddling’

On getting too involved

“By supporting the IT-Comm Infrastructure of their firms, senior management gives it relevance and legitimacy, potentially making its use an integral part of the global NPD culture of the firm and thus ensuring its use throughout the organization. At the same time, getting too involved in the day-to-day NPD operations can be problematic. Already developed capabilities in the form of routines for concrete problem solving could be weakened through ad hoc approaches introduced by top management.”


The researchers were honoured at a dinner in Corpus Christi college Cambridge [September 7th 2011] hosted by Dr James Moultrie, Institute for Manufacturing at Cambridge University as an event within the 1st Cambridge Academic Design Management Conference (CADMC). James was the recipient of the award in 2009.

The photograph shows from left to right Professor Olaf Fischer, University of Twente; Susan Moger, Manchester Business School, University of Manchester; Emeritus Professor Elko Kleinschmidt, McMaster University; Emeritus Professor Tudor Rickards, Manchester University; Dr James Moultrie, Cambridge University; Dr Søren Salomo, Danish Technical University; and Dr Klassjan Visscher, University of Twente.

Olaf and Klassan are co-editors of Creativity and Innovation Management Journal [with, in absentia, Professor Petra de Weerd-Nederhof, University of Twente].

Social Media and the diffusion of unrest

August 10, 2011

Susan Moger

Rioting in England appears to have spread contagiously across London and then to other cities in August 2011. The process calls for new thinking about the nature of leadership and the activation of social networks

Riots in London and around the country over the last three days [August 8-10, 2011] have seen widespread looting and buildings set alight. Dozens were left homeless after a night of riots on the streets of Tottenham on Saturday after a peaceful demonstration over the death of Mark Duggan a local resident, who was shot by police a few days earlier [Thursday Aug 4th].

One part of the debate centres around the concept of a trigger event as the single cause or tipping point for future actions. If we examine a historical pattern of events , comparisons have been drawn with the rioting some twenty five years ago which were triggered off by police actions in the same social housing complex (the Broadwater Farm Estate) from which the victim came.

The disturbances in London have illustrated how quickly a latent focus for unrest and mistrust can be ignited, or reignited with tragic consequences.

Urban guerrilla warfare

The situation has been particularly difficult to deal with because of the rapid spread of information that can help organisers to mobilise, operate and retreat before the police and civil authorities were able to respond. The unrest is a type of modern urban guerrilla warfare.

How social networks operate

Work on how social networks operate reveals the importance of individuals known as network activators, who have skills at mobilizing the efforts within their social networks. Our studies began with evidence from entrepreneurs who seemed able to create localized gains in social capital resulting in personal and organisational innovations and change.

The concept of network activation can be extended to actions observed within the change processes occurring in the era of social media, whether these contexts are considered desirable or not.

Structural embeddedness

The suddenness of the escalation of the riots in London and elsewhere suggests that a trigger event can produce a cascade effect. Taking the historic perspective we may consider that that the conditions for change are contained (or structurally embedded) in localised conditions. This helps explain the reappearance of patterns of behaviours in the same geographical area.

In the era of social network sites

Texting, the use of mobile devices such as a Blackberry, and the development of social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter, place the authories’ response to social disorder at a severe disadvantage. They are dealing with multi-focal events happening very quickly over a short period of time.

There are short-term steps to restoring social calm including technological fixes and more rapid and emphatic police action . However, understanding and addressing the underlying mechanisms of how such disorder arises and is sustained must also be a priority to achieving social stability and equity.


Susan Moger is senior fellow in leadership at Manchester Business School. She has researched and written extensively about the processes of leadership, social networks and their activation. Her recent studies are to be published in the upcoming edition of the Handbook on the Knowledge Economy.

Image of Tottenham riot fire

Ironically, the first fatalities during the riots were from a hit and run driver. [Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali and Abdul Musavir]. Haroon’s father Tariq Jahan became a powerful figure pleading for community restraint [Aug 11th].

See also Clifford Stott’s analysis challenging ‘the mindset of a mob mentality’


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