Contemplative Leadership for Entrepreneurial Organizations
Paradigms, Metaphors, and Wicked Problems
by Nancy J. Eggert
September 1998, 304pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-56720-190-1
$86, £64, 72€, A123

Offers an alternative leadership paradigm, one that is especially well designed to face the wicked management problems in today’s organizations: the contemplative paradigm.

Synthesizing elements from linguistics, philosophy, and the histories of science and spirituality, Dr. Eggert opens the door to new ways of thinking, perceiving, valuing, inquiring, and acting for leaders of entrepreneurial organizations. She maintains that the mainstream leadership paradigm both opens and closes possibilities for inspired leadership. Today’s leaders need an alternative because the dominant leadership paradigm is no longer serving them well. Her book illustrates the contemplative tradition, exemplified by the 14th century mystic Meister Eckhart, and offers a set of fundamental assumptions about organizational life that can serve as precisely the sort of alternative paradigm needed to challenge the current logical-rational paradigm inherited from the Enlightenment. Indeed, by adopting the contemplative style of leadership, management in today’s often distraught organizations will find new, more effective ways to approach today’s very special, and wicked, organizational problems.

Dr. Eggert explores leadership styles that would arise from the comtemplative paradigm. Her book first considers several classics such as Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kenneth Boulding’s Images, and Gareth Morgan’s Images of Organizations that illustrate and explain how our basic set of operating assumptions affect how we think, inquire, value, perceive, and act—highlighting certain aspects and obscuring others in accordance with the reigning paradigm. Alternative paradigms, Eggert argues, offer alternative and additional ways of thinking and acting that bear on today’s wicked problems—the chronic, unwieldy, malignant tangles that bedevil organizations today. Using the contemplative experience itself as a key metaphor for the contemplative paradigm, the second section of the book uses theologian Matthew Fox’s work on medieval German mystic Meister Eckhart to identify and map the underlying assumptions of the contemplative approach to life. The focus then shifts to Contemplative Leadership, the style of leadership that would flow from contemplative assumptions. Eggert’s book is fascinating, important reading for people with management responsibilities in today’s public and private sector organizations.

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