Connections: Robert Sutton

I may be way behind you on this recommendation, but today I have run into Robert Sutton, professor of Management Science at Stanford University.  I’ve made a quick run through his archived writings, and he clearly is a respected spokesperson in the area of leadership.  He writes with a “no-nonsense” style (and language), but he is someone clearly well worth getting to know.

He covers the waterfront (dealing with both personhood and performance) in leaders and leadership.  With respect to the relational dimensions of good leaders, he writes…

“We want fair leaders who protect us, and who make us feel cared for and respected–who inject humanity.”

Sutton is part of a growing leadership movement which is going under the banner “the soft side of leadership.”  It is a movement which is saying that an impersonal, hierarchical, “shark” style of leadership is not what will make and sustain individuals and institutions.  And his years of studying a wide range of organizations make him a formidable voice.

His latest book, Good Boss, Bad Boss is a candid critique of those who believe that leadership must be “reinvented” for the twenty-first century.  Instead, Sutton notes that the evidence from major university and business-world studies reveals that, while the context and conditions for leadership are always changing, the characteristics of good and healthy leaders remain the same.

In a posting today at Fast he ends his remarks with these words, “Don’t believe the hype about reinventing management.  As over fifty years of research shows, treating employees with respect, encouraging them to participate and make suggestions, and listening to them is as important as ever.”

I invite you to get to know Robert Sutton.  And with respect to Spiritual Formation, I also think that a renewed look at Jesus’ “shepherd style leadership” is an even-deeper place to go in order to discover the kind of leaders God desires….and blesses.

I try to address ideas related to this in my weekly (Wednesday) post entitled, “Shepherd’s Care.”

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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