In a recent article published in Organisational & Social Dynamics, Howard F. Stein and Seth Allcorn draw on the work of Thomas Ogden and D.W. Winnicott to describe the “good enough leader” (GEL).
Good enough leaders are able to balance their “hard” and “soft” sides, providing a style of leadership that contains rather controls. Striking this balance requires leaders to “listen deeply,” “create a ‘calm pond’ that allows people to focus on the task” (containment), facilitate a safe environment that promotes trust, respect, and ethical behavior, and foster a playful environment where imagination and creativity flourish.
While these four attributes may seem obvious, the authors point out that today’s organisational environment promotes a “hard” (masculine) style of leadership that can make it difficult to practice GEL skills. Beyond that, the underlying psychodynamics between leaders and followers that influence the ability to practice good enough leadership require a high level of personal development and self and other awareness on the part of leaders who want to practice GEL-style leadership.
The authors leave us with this thought: “The question remains as to whether the form of leadership that we have discussed and advocated—neither “hard” nor “soft”—is durable, sustainable, and resilient. In the face of organisational trauma, the unleashing of anxiety, and the search for simple solutions and protection via regression, enlightened and compassionate “good enough” leadership would seem to be fragile.”