Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Follow the leader

I've just got back from the city of the fish-heads and am feeling a little like a headless herring myself after the annual APG Open Source. I have to say that the session was a little disappointing this year: there was a distinct lack of dottiness amongst the professors and there were moments when the mood of the room lurched depressingly into that typical German "we need leadership but, no, not that kind of leadership again..." mentality.

First off was Prof. Jansen who took us wittily and entertainingly through the history of organisational leadership, aspects and trends in leadership. With a fast-paced delivery Prof. Jansen managed to throw everything from herrings to Paul Gascoigne into his talk. Next up was Prof. Langguth whose talk on political leadership in Germany, contrasting Kohl, Schröder and Merkel was interesting enough but I have to admit not so relevant to me personally as someone dissecting Thatcher, Major and Blair (and I am sure there are enough people who would like to see that literally!). So I am afraid that, by the time Herr Jörges from the Stern came on with more state of the nation stuff and answers to questions that were longer than the original talk, I was only aware that I was stuck in Hyde Park Corner, German-style, and that my feet were freezing cold!

Prof. Haberfellner (who looked alarmingly like Bianca Castafiore, the opera singer from Tintin), provided a change in theme and gave a talk about leadership in education, with a particular focus on her own school, Schloß Salem. While lacking a little in depth, Prof. Heberfellner's talk was pleasant to listen to and provided a welcome injection of optimism into the proceedings. I was pleased to see that the next speaker, Dr Ditzer, was going to do a presentation, rather than a talk. At last, having been deprived of Powerpoint for a whole day, there would be something to look at! Unfortunately, this particular presentation, about leadership Japanese-style was rather like the origami paper before you start folding: flat and with unfulfilled potential.

Finally, with about half of the delegates already gone, came Herr Geyer, the mountain guide. And at last, we had visuals: glorious pictures of mountains and plenty of them! And here, finally, was the quirky, bizarre element of the Open Source that I had missed up to now. I could sense the audience becoming increasingly intrigued and amused by the superimposition of the clunkiest Powerpoint arrows, stars and boxes in the most unnatural colours littering the peaks of the Alps and Himalayas!

Overall, I feel that the organisers could have cut out at least one of the speakers: and a wider spread would have been nice - spiritual leadership would have been an obvious candidate for me. Herr Geyers's main point was that a mountain guide's decisions are always based on the trade-off between potential risk and potential experience. I'll certainly have to bring that one into play in my decision whether to come next year. Or maybe I'll just be a headless herring.

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