Prof. Paul Verdin
Director, Baillet Latour Chair on Error Management & Professor in Strategy and Organization at SBS-EM

Dr. Vincent Giolito

Lead Researcher, Baillet Latour Chair on Error Management at Solvay Brussels School of Economics & Management (SBS-EM)

Irene Ingardi

Doctoral Researcher at the Baillet Latour Chair



Lamentations about the limited impact of research on high reliability organizations (HRO) beyond high-risk industries (e.g. nuclear power, the military, air traffic control) are common in the scholarly community. Weick and colleagues suspected it was because “key HRO processes [had] remained unarticulated” (Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2008, p. 34). They proceeded with a description of such processes termed as “mindful organizing” (Weick & Sutcliffe, 2007; Weick et al., 2008).

Ten years on, regrettably, corporate disasters show it was insufficient. For example, calls to transpose HRO principles to banking (Roberts & Libuser, 1993) remained unheeded, as illustrated during the financial crisis (e.g. Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, 2011) and, more recently, by the scandal of over-selling at Wells Fargo, a leading US bank (Gray, 2016).

We propose an additional explanation. HRO research has always focused on the organizational level. It shows how organizations, conceived of as systems, cope with the unexpected (Casler, 2014; Roberts, 1990b, 1990a; Weick, 1987). Some examine the role of teams, but mostly “people” are mentioned generically. Very few studies (e.g. Carroll & Hatakenaka, 2001) adopt the perspective of the very individuals whose role would be instrumental in introducing mindful organizing: top executives (Carpenter, Geletkanycz, & Sanders, 2004; Hambrick & Mason, 1984; Sutcliffe, 1994).

Building on our own research on strategic error management – i.e. how top executives manage organizational errors that challenge their firms’ strategies – (Giolito & Verdin, 2016a, 2016b, 2018), in this paper we argue that, to reap the organization-level benefits of HROs, it is critical to integrate the individual dimension of top executives’ leadership, i.e. the influence they exert on others above and beyond their formal powers in the perspective of change (Bass & Bass, 2008). We propose recent, alternative theories – authentic leadership (Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Avolio & Mhatre, 2012) and servant leadership (Greenleaf, 1970; Liden, Wayne, Zhao, & Henderson, 2008; van Dierendonck, 2011) – as appropriate for understanding what leadership is effective in HROs and for transitioning from non-HRO to HRO-type, mindful organizing.


Prof. Paul Verdin, Director, Baillet Latour Chair on Error Management and professor in Strategy and Organization at SBS-EM. Paul holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and was previously on the faculty at IESE (Spain), INSEAD (France) and a Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School (USA).

Dr. Vincent Giolito, Lead Researcher, Baillet Latour Chair on Error Management at Solvay Brussels School of Economics & Management (SBS-EM), and advisor to CEOs on strategy, leadership, and organization. Vincent holds a DBA from Université Paris-Dauphine and an MBA from INSEAD. He is a former deputy editor at French newspaper Le Figaro.

Irene Ingardi, Doctoral Researcher at the Baillet Latour Chair. Irene holds a MSc from SBS-EM and a BA from Bocconi University (Italy). She was a co-founder of Antiheroes, a Brussels-based consultancy which teaches organizations and entrepreneurs how to deal with failure intelligently.

Meeting Recording (link coming soon)

Meeting Presentation (link coming soon)

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