The call by the Chartered Management Institute for managers to sign a pledge “to develop the way I manage and lead, setting the example for others” reminds me of what my boss in British Airways used to say about edicts. He didn’t think they made much difference to what actually happened (he was less polite than that). A good test for anyone who has made the pledge is this: what are you now doing differently? Or even, what do you expect to do differently?
Organisations have two faces. One is rational (the side that’s taught in business schools); it consists of policies, structures, directives, strategies, standing orders, budgets, plans, etc. The other is non-rational; it contains politics, greed, ambition, the grapevine, friendships, jealousies, power, etc. This second ‘shadow side’ better explains what really happens. Edicts are part of the former; they are an expression of intention, wishfulness and hope, usually flying in the face of humanity’s self-interest and weakness. Pledges fit here too.
Pledges make people feel warm. We all need some of that. It’s an important emotion. Yet when I think about the banks and look out on the state of the economy, politics, climate change, criminal justice, global warming, Afghanistan and think about leadership, a more appropriate emotion right now would seem to be anger.