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The Postmodern Condition: II. Troubling Ambiguity with Shifting Boundaries and Multiple Roles

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Is this a good thing? Is the edginess of the postmodern era a result of continuing confusion about what is work, what is home and what is leisure? What happens to the time that we save with our wonderful new devices? What happens to the time that we take away from our own lives and the lives of people with whom we don’t work (our friends and family)? Is the appointment that we are least likely to keep the one that we have made with ourselves? Or don’t we even bother to make this appointment, given all of the other demands on our time?

Implications for Leaders

Facing the challenge of providing leadership in organizations that are filled with turbulence, unpredictability and complexity, many leaders have given up on finding a coherent set of answers to the questions they pose. They certainly don’t expect to discover a unified theory of leadership. Other leaders have grown cynical of any set of strategies or any theory that purports to tell them how to lead a 21st century organization. Most postmodern leaders are inclined to dismiss any prescriptive model that identifies a right and wrong way of operating. Given the nature of the postmodern condition posed in this series of essays, they turn instead to more contextually-based models that address the complex dynamics of most organizations.

Abraham Maslow was among the first to recognize that there was no one right way to lead or manage. Unfortunately, he presented this notion in an obscurely titled book, Eupsychian Management (later re-titled Maslow on Management), which received little attention. Others (such as Woodward, Fiedler and Vroom) also tried to make the point, but were either too academic or were located in an out-of-the-way place (such as England!). It really was not until the 1980s, when Hershey and Blanchard coined the term situational leadership that the notion of multiple models of successful leadership and management took hold among both the theorists and those who actually practice leadership and management on a daily basis.

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