Professor Hugh O’Doherty, an internationally-renowned expert who spoke at the Pathfinder Foundation – Harvard University Leadership Dialogue held recently,
|Professor Hugh O’Doherty
provided a rigorous framework to understand the role of leadership in addressing ‘adaptive challenges’ i.e. those where there is a gap between aspirations and current reality of people of countries such as Sri Lanka.
In considering “leadership,” Prof O’Doherty distinguished it from “authority.” He argued that the purpose of “authority” was to provide direction, protection and order. However, there can be “leadership” in addressing, adaptive challenges which is associated with, or separate from, “authority.” It can be both top-down and bottom-up. Prof. O’Doherty emphasised that leadership was an “activity,” not a position or role.
The third of the six series seminar was held at the American Centre on 2 December 2010 and participants included private sector personalities and members of leading research institutions.
Pro O’Doherty further pointed out that communities often do not have the knowledge or the skills to address or solve such problems. Adaptive challenges generate “resistance, de-equilibrium and avoidance.” Prof. O’Doherty went on to address the importance of leadership in creating the environment to identify and solve such problems.
The discussion that followed O’Doherty’s presentation focused, among other things, on creating the space for leadership at all levels; the nature and causes of adaptive challenges; the difficulties involved in changing beliefs and values, which are based on myths and primordial fears; and the contribution of economic stagnation to the emergence of adoptive challenges.
Prof. O’Doherty concluded that “technical” solutions were often not sufficient in themselves to resolve such challenges. A change in beliefs and values was also required. Prof. O’Doherty pointed out that the victory over the LTTE was an important technical solution.
He argued, however, that it was also necessary to address the issue of reconciliation to ensure a long-term solution. This was an adaptive challenge that required changes in values and believes on all sides.