'A leader engages in this task of constructive subversion. What they subvert is unthinking custom and practice. A leader will not accept that things are merely done because everybody does it, because that's just the way that we do things around here.
But they're not seeking to impose some kind of idiosyncratic view of their own on the organisation. They're not trying to bring it down. It's constructive because the job of leadership is to help the organisation become more like the thing it says it wants to be.
But to do this requires extraordinary moral courage. It's really, really hard.
Can you imagine what your colleagues are going to do? Some might say it's fantastic. A lot are going to say 'Sorry, just get out of the way and let us get on with it. We know what we're doing.' And there will be your peer group who will be pretty annoyed with some of you who do it because if you start doing it then they might have to start doing it and that's going to be a burden.
Resource constrained. Time constrained. 'We're just trying to cope and you want us to do this as well?'
And there will be superiors who will get pretty annoyed from time to time that you have asked the difficult question that if had just been left unasked it would have made life more bearable.
Yet that is not leadership.
If you're going to lead. If you volunteer for the task. This is the sort of thing in which you're going to have to engage.'
- Dr Simon Longstaff, Director of the St James Ethics Centre