Charles Handy and the Question of Trust at Tallberg New Leader Program 2009

Thirtysomething. Yip, that still has a good ring to it. And while my wife keeps trying to round it up to forty, it works for a while longer. So I was relieved when invited to the Tällberg New Leader Program 22-25 June 2009 in Tallberg, Sweden and found that the foundation had switched out the name from “Young Leaders Program” to "New Leaders Program" last year. So I could still sit comfortably with my titanium flecks showing around the temples and in the stubble. Worthwhile traveling from the bottom of Africa to the top of Sweden to hear from management gurus like Charles Handy and think bigger thoughts on trust and sustainable finance.

Young and older, from around the world, the Tallberg NLP 2009 programme has some heavyweight conceptual and personal ground to cover in a short space of time. The diversity of candidates was good, and I added some country members from Middle East, Asia and Latin America I had not met before. A global conversation. I enjoyed the conversations most of all, that is the Tallberg tradition - not speeches nor soliloquies, but conversations. Hosting by Tallberg Foundation team and the tutors was solid and offered variety and flow, in a dynamic situation. The group made a superb study in contrasts to the demands of living on one planet, and how capital makes or unmakes that to happen...

A highlight for me was spending time with legendary business guru Charles Handy from Britain. A bonus meeting his lovely wife, Elizabeth Handy, herself an accomplished portrait photographer . See The Economist piece from 12 June just before the forum, Wiki, some classic articles, incuding HBR articles "What's a Business For?" and "Tocqueville Revisited: The Meaning of American Prosperity" , interview by Booz Allen "The Paradox of Charles Handy" , and video at Forbes.com on Life Lessons. Charles's 1998 book also has one of the better titles, "The Age of Unreason", and the "The Elephant and the Flea" spoke of the working pattern for the "creative class" years before the phrase became famous. At Tallberg when we had the opportunity to interview key leaders, I stepped up to ask Mr Handy two questions, the first was about trust. His answer: so very, very hard to rebuild once it's broken. See more of his thinking on trust and reflections from Harvard's HBR Editors' blog in Q1 this year and his seminal article so relevant for our global online workstyles "Trust and the Virtual Organization" . In our JustMeans thinking, this issue of trust we will revisit many, many times in this year. Above all, in an age that chases youth, I found Charles Handy offered something which Richard Branson has sought through The Elders: using the accumulated and tested wisdom of those who have followed thoughtful and meaningful paths, and lived to tell the tale.  Using the "still Life" project in developing the leadership program, which used five random objects arranged in a still life which Elizabeth then photographed to reflect a personal journey, illustrated how the Handy's experience complemented each other ]. Reflecting for the assignment had me pondering the Van Morrison's lyrics to "Let the Slave" with extracts from William Blake's The Price of Experience". The windows into NLP 2009 colleagues was meaningful.

The Tallberg NLP 2009 syllabus covered systems thinking developed out of MIT by Peter Senge and the monograph from the Tallberg Forum’s “Grasping the Climate Crisis”. In the larger Forum in the sauna that was the closed-flap circus tent on the village common from Thursday - Sunday, the Forum covered much ground courtesy of contributors; see video review of "What Have We Learned". Any paper that is tagged “a provocaction” works for my critical thinking processes, Charles Handy would be proud of the unreason! The Tallberg Network reflects more of the learnings, and while some of the content was philosophical and lyrical, the Forum Program itself on Thursday - Sunday had tracks covering sustainable finance and ecological ecnomics. The question of trust kept coming up, and Mr Madoff featured, along with beating up a few banks. As one delegate described, it is quite intense: most of us were wiped out by Sunday, and spacey the following week. More about that later.