The article was originally published on Monday Morning
Anne-Mette Scheibel
Partner, Resonans A/S
Mikkel Ejsing
Partner, Resonans A/S

Are you a wild leader?

All organizations are perfectly equipped to create the results that they create today. But if we are to find solutions for tomorrow, we must therefore take a different approach. It takes brave, experimental and boundary-crossing leadership, well, maybe even wild leadership?

Why are we really trying to hammer out wild problems with the tame tools that we know and are comfortable with? All managers and employees do their utmost every day to deal with the wild cross-cutting problems of the time in the best possible way.

But what if that's not enough? Wild problems are wild precisely because they are complex and cannot be solved with the flick of a finger, nor with known methods and approaches. The first step in wild leadership is to challenge the status quo and realize that something new is needed.

The first step in wild leadership is to challenge the status quo and realize that something new is needed.

The first thing that the 'wild leader' sees before others is that we are not as innovative as we think. Too often innovation is hampered by rigid subject boundaries, organisational structures, rules, habits, hierarchy and power plays. Our overestimation of our own abilities, lack of curiosity and unwillingness to shift the perspective from our own beliefs and professional interests to missions and visions of a better shared future is a stumbling block.

The wild leader disturbs and provokes us to think radically out of the box and imagine an improved future unhindered by self-interest and entrenched perspectives.

Do you dare to be unpopular?

Wild problems know no bounds. Neither subject boundaries nor organizational structures. Wild problems such as the climate crisis, the recruitment challenge and a squeezed health service call for cross-border solutions, in which we, as citizens, families and civil society, also take greater responsibility.

The wild leader makes clear and often unpopular demands to work across internally between fields and professions and to engage externally, for example in co-creation across organisations and sectors.

Indeed, when we work with wild problems, linear cause-effect relationships are not available. The illusion of one problem with one solution is decidedly harmful. Wild problems unfold in a multicomplex system of influences, where many small movements combine to create the good progress. Some intentional and planned (strategic), others random and result of experiments (emergent).

The wild leader accepts the uncontrollable and thereby manages to create resonance. In working with wild problems, we must use a broader approach to create change and to document value and results. Not blindfolded, but with hands on the wheel, prepared to adjust the direction every time new knowledge and new opportunities arise.

Wild, but not violent

We often see good examples of wild management in both the public and private sectors and in cross-cutting co-creation processes. The 'wild' consists of clarity, determination, courage and willingness to take significantly new paths and make difficult choices. Both in personal leadership and in the initiatives that are launched when strategies are to be realized. Wild leaders are not unrestrained, inconsiderate and disrespectful, but rather feisty, thoughtful and appreciative.

Like, for example, in Topsøe. Here, Kim Saaby Hedegaard heads the Power-2-X business, where climate change and the future of energy supply are the focus. The development of the completely new technologies requires both research and radical innovation in development, production and supply chains.

Manufacturing plants must be designed and built, while creating the technology they contain. It requires clear and sustained internal communication, insistence on rethinking and freeing the wise heads. Outwardly, Topsøe may enter into partnerships with educational institutions, suppliers, public actors and customers in carbon-heavy industries such as agriculture, freight forwarding, aircraft industry and steel manufacturing.

Kim's role as CEO is wilder than in the past and involves, among other things, being proactive in informing and influencing politicians and other decision-makers so that they make decisions about the green transition based on the latest industry knowledge, which is often further along with technology development than the rest of us realize.

Can you wait for the solution until someone else comes in?

Or in Aarhus Municipality, where City Manager Martin Østergaard Christensen has put together seven wild problems that need to be solved radically differently, recognizing that the municipality cannot solve them alone.

The work will be carried out across academic boundaries and in partnerships with external actors. Politicians give the backing to take new paths, citizens are involved in new ways, employees are set free, and leaders challenge themselves not to go too quickly into solution mode.

Regarding the reason for the move to go wilder than usual, the city manager says: “We encounter some boundaries and barriers where we have to cross paths and use other methods. Every time I think that I have been innovative myself, it turns out that I have been more linear.”

And at Danmarks Naturfredningsforening (DN), where Director Lars Midtiby will realize the organization's mission of more nature in Denmark, a cleaner environment and a sustainable future. Lars Midtiby challenges and gives space inside, so that teams can be put together across and work with specific themes. Tasks are cut away to make room for the long cool drag on the big agendas.

DN opens up more and engages in partnerships and co-creation with actors with whom it was not convenient for DN to cooperate with in the past. At the same time, efforts are being made to mobilise new types of volunteers in a wider range of members, for example with a strong focus on children and young people. In many ways, a savage cultural change, which upholds old virtues while making room for new ones.

You're wilder than you think

We are convinced that you are already doing a lot of wild things in your leadership. You're probably wilder than you even think. Involve yourself and others in doing the right thing. Find the examples in the organization where you challenge yourself in a way that creates something new. Finding and enlarging all that already works can also be pretty wild.

But also look for where you will push with more ferocity the structures, cultures, habits, and behaviors that hamper your work on the wild problems.

All organizations are perfectly equipped to create the results that they create today. What results will you create tomorrow?


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