Bartering: the Economics of Leader Development
A key concern most senior leaders face is "How can we continue to engage in leader development during times of economic crisis and severe budget cuts?" Drawing from the field of both economics and human behaviour, I seek to draw the attention of my readers to a phenomenon that has worked very well for economies and it's parallel in the world of human behaviour and leader development.
has forced us to think of novel ways of dealing with the challenges. The second wave of recession (or is it the third!) ushered in the era of budget cuts in many firms.
This made me think about the dependence of leader development on money. Billions are invested in development solutions for leaders across the world. Does this mean that if an organisation does not have those cool billions to spare, they should forget about leader development?
And then I remembered a system as old as existence itself - the barter system.
Globally, there is agreement that the barter system has worked very well for centuries. With the onset of the current recession and devaluation of currency, barter seems to be making a strong comeback. I have recently been familiarising myself with the concept of "couchsurfing", where people voluntarily barter their 'couches' in return for theuse of other 'couches' within the community of couch-surfers on a future trip. Many more examplesof goods and services being exchanged for other goods and services do exist, and this is exactly what the barter system is all about. Even in business, PepsiCo famously bartered their soda for Vodka
Here is a scenario for how bartering could support leader development:
Leader X from a business unit offers Leader Y from another business unit some information, knowledge or an opportunity for learning. In exchange, X requires Y to share some information, knowledge or some other item or experience of value to X. If both X and Y experience value in this exchange and find it equitable, both have benefited without much loss to either.
Readers who subscribe to the leader-member exchange (LMX) theory would also be able to appreciate the opportunity useful barters may offer to develop positive relations with their peers, and team members. There is evidence to suggest that leaders who display high LMX also elicit better performance.
What are the chances that the community of leaders will find something of value from each other that they could mutually exchange? Many would argue that if exchange has to happen the people involved would need to possess something that the other person (s) value.
This is in line with also one of the elements of barter, namely, presence of a double coincidence of wants