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Ted Nunez

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Dancing as a Social Practice – A Tanguero’s View

In a previous blog –Self-Governance as a Social Practice: A Philosopher’s View – I pointed up the relevance of Alasdair MacIntyre’s thoughts on character and the virtues, in particular his idea of “social practices”, and the communities that sustain them. I offered as an example LRN’s quest to become a self-governing organization that embodies HOW in everything it does.

At LRN, there’s no line drawn between the personal and the professional when it comes to living an inspired life and elevating one’s behavior. Beyond work, the social practices that put LRN folks on a path toward getting their HOWs right are many and varied. I’ve found that my own avocation – Argentine tango – is in many ways an ideal training ground for embodying HOW (literally) and becoming an inspiring leader.

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Topics: HOW

Self-Governance as a Social Practice – A Philosopher’s View

In his seminal work After Virtue (1981), philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre seeks to recover Aristotle’s notions of character and virtue. We form our character and write our own life story over time, MacIntyre argues, largely through participation in what he simply calls “social practices”—meaning any sufficiently complex human activity aimed at realizing something worthwhile or intrinsically good and capable of inspiring the pursuit of excellence. On that definition, the practice of healing or playing chess or democratic self-governance counts, but tic-tac-toe doesn’t; whereas the former extend the human potential for excellence, the latter merely amuses.

As a moral philosopher, MacIntyre is keenly aware of sociological context and the massive impact of cultural conditioning on individuals. Communities form around social practices and are sustained by master-apprentice relationships and traditions. A young violinist or aspiring architect, for example, has a deep appreciation for and is inspired by a Beethoven, a Frank Lloyd Wright, and other true masters. (Sorry, but there are no Wii masters.)

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Topics: Self Governance

Want to Build Ethical Culture? Play Up the Middle

Originally appeared on

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Are You Fighting Fires, or On Fire? Why Leaders with Passion and Humility Prevail

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste, Rahm Emanuel once quipped. Along similar lines, leadership gurus are fond of noting the opportunities for change when a “burning platform” presents itself. On this view, sounding the alarm bells can set off a search for a new direction, provided managers can free themselves from the “tyranny of emergency.”  

In situations where complacency rather than crisis rules the day, the “house on fire” play seems like a good call. One can see the point of rousing management from dogmatic slumbers when serious threats appear on the horizon. That said, we should question the burning platform stratagem for igniting change. In the life of organizations, what evidence do we have that fear-based arguments—“if we don’t do X now and in earnest, then Y surely will be our ruin”—lead to lasting change? The evidence seems thin at best. Companies that make a habit of responding to business challenges by jumping on the latest performance improvement method or re-engineering scheme seldom do well over time.
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Topics: Leadership

Want to Build Ethical Culture? Play Up the Middle

Most Ethics and Compliance (E&C) leaders now cite “building ethical culture” as a major goal of their strategy for program development, and with good reason. Based on data from several National Business Ethics Surveys, the Ethics Resource Center concludes that “ethics risk is most effectively reduced by an enterprise-wide cultural approach to ethics that extends beyond a compliance mentality.” Culture is the game CECOs are looking to play.

Mitigating risk is not the only benefit of a culture strategy. LRN’sHOW Report--a validated, cross-industry survey of over 36,000 employees in 18 countries--found that culture impacts performance, and that it can be measured. According to the global study, organizations with self-governing cultures outperform those with cultures characterized by either blind obedience (strict command-and-control) or informed acquiescence (rules-based, carrot-and-stick). High trust levels, a values-based approach to business, and an authentic commitment to a purpose-inspired mission are the key enablers of high performance for self-governing organizations.

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Topics: Corporate Culture