Heiftiz and Brown

Brown, in his book Plan B 4.O: mobilizing to save civilization shows that we are facing some very large, what Heifitz in his article Leading with an open heart calls adaptive challenges.  Adaptive challengesoccur when society is faced with the necessity to completely change how its views, and operates within the world. Brown clearly explains that the way we have “always done things” isn’t necessarily most beneficial to us, or our planet by outlining current problems such as decreasing food, water, economic and social security.  We cannot sustain our current pattern of growth, along with our current use of resources.  Brown, in no uncertain terms, lays down the facts and he has very specific ideas of what will help us face these challenges.  The problem is, who is going to lead the world in changing ingrained behavior? Are we going to be able to face these adaptive challenges successfully? Heifitz says, “To meet adaptive challenges, people have to go through a period of painful adjustment. Leading people to make these changes is risky,vbecause you are asking them to absorb various forms of loss—asking them to out and out give up something in the interests of something to be maintained, to be conserved, or to be gained” (Heifitz, 2002, p 29). But it is possible.

In a conversation, Heifitz would probably tell Brown that in order to bring about the changes he thinks are necessary to remedy or even reverse some of the damage we have done to the planet, we need leaders that are grounded and self aware. Leaders often become leaders because they take the responsibility off of others’ shoulders. (Heifitz, 2002, p. 31)  In order to deal with these adaptive challenges we need compassionate leaders who are good at making the responsibility broad based.  Heifitz would also emphasize the need to embrace conflict. Most people, including leaders tend to avoid conflict making often making mild disagreement into violent disagreement Heifitz says, “Successful leaders manage conflict; they don’t shy away from it or suppress it but see it as an engine of creativity and innovation.” The conflict arising from debates over how to deal with climate change, water shortages, and food security, if handled correctly could be fuel for incredible creative solutions.

Brown would most likely speak to Heifitz with a sense of urgency, and an emphasis on the technology needed to create a more efficient and peaceful world.  I think he would agree with Heifitz’s ideas on leadership in general, but might be a bit frustrated with Heifitz views on conflict. Brown has a very clear purpose, and believes that we need to take drastic and specific actions in order to restore balance.  This may be true, but but the nearly 8 billion people on this planet may not all agree. The challenge in facing such adaptive changes is that there will be inevitably some conflict before creative solutions can be put in place. Brown, however, would also tell Heifitz that open hearted leaders are already shaping the future, and are the key to its success. He says “We face an extraordinary challenge, but here is much to be upbeat about” and goes on to give examples of countries taking the lead on restoring the planet’s health (Brown, 2009, p. 25).  We have all the tools in technology andleadership to implement Plan B, now we have to use them.

Brown, Lester. (2009). Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to save civilization New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Heifetz, Ronald and Linsky, Marty. (Fall 2002) Leading with an open heart.  Leader to Leader.  p 28-33.

Kirsten Halverson MBA Candidate 2013


One Response to Heiftiz and Brown

  1. pchandler725 says:

    Brown is masterful at pushing the urgency of our global environmental challenges. I think it’s an excellent point that while adaptive challenges take time, we don’t have a lot of time right now for our planet’s air and water resources.

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