Brown, Heifitz, and Linsky would all agree that a new kind of openness and positive energy are needed in solving what ails the planet in these modern times. None of these authors seems shy about leaning into topics full of conflict. Take, for example, the burgeoning human population issue that Brown lays out; moderating the world’s population plays a crucial part in the Brown’s solution for a healthier planet. Population stabilization is undeniably a complex problem, one that the three authors would all say is an adaptive challenge (Heifitz & Linsky, p. 28) and requires divergent thinking. Agreeing with Heifitz and Linsky, Brown tacitly understands that a top-down solution is not going to result in constructive progress; rather, he prefers that families voluntarily shift to smaller units, as this is a more preferable option to high mortality rates curbing human populations (Brown, p. 24). While Brown makes the case for stabilization due to “scientific reality” (Brown, p. 24), he might have more success with this initiative if he takes to heart Heifitz and Linsky’s recommendation for compassion in a leader (Heifitz & Linsky, p. 33). Compassion would allow a leader to work with a community on an emotional topic like limits on births and to find consensus; a dictum about reproduction would not be so successful in countries that are accustomed to certain personal freedoms. A compassionate leader would also help a community through a transition period, which Heifitz and Linsky claim is vital to lasting success (Heifitz & Linsky, p. 28).
Where Brown would strongly diverge from Heifitz and Linsky’s suggestions is with the latter authors’ advocacy for innocence and naiveté in a leader (Heifitz & Linsky, p. 31). A leader almost has to have blinders on, it seems, to not be swayed by preconceived notions and prejudices. The problems Brown is asking us to deal with are so complex and global that not having previous knowledge of “business as usual” (Brown, p. 23) seems dangerous. Understanding past mistakes and constructs helps a leader avoid some of the solutions that have previously been tried and failed. Having more savviness than innocence entails allows us to avoid the merely technical solutions (such as with crop yields [Brown, p. 8]), failing states (and how impactful they are [Brown, p. 18]), exploitation (such as with the land grab [Brown, p. 10]), and lethargy (Brown, p. 25). Naivete would not work for many global problems, but certainly creativity and openness would.
Brown, Lester. (2009). Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to save civilization. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Heifetz, R., & Linsky, M. (2002). Leading with an open heart. Leader to Leader, (26), 28-33.
Cameren Cousins, MBA Candidate 2013