Thursday, October 20, 2011

Liberative Leadership and The Implied Potential of the Follower-Leader

Of course, if we can have a leader-follower, why not a follower-leader?

The idea intrinsic to the model "A Vision for Leadership and Collaboration" is that in a healthy process of leading and following the leader and follower roles alternate or are exchanged, and I continue to believe that's a good paradigm. However, if we identify two, momentarily distinct roles, leader-follower and follower-leader, more powerful descriptive possibilities arise. The implications are:

  • As has always been the case in this model, when someone is leading in a healthy fashion, they will inevitably also find themselves following - an involving and participatory action that permits further development of the leadership role and contribution.
  • With the addition of a follower-leader role, not only does the one who is momentarily leading explicitly contain the potential to follow, but the person who is momentarily following, explicitly contains the potential to lead! (Remember how each part of the yin-yang symbol contains a dot having the same color as its counterpart?)
This expanded leader-follower/follower-leader paradigm, portrays the ongoing dialogical relationship between leader and follower in what for the moment I'm calling, a healthy relationship.

This perspective arose while I was reading, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" by Paulo Freire, 1996, Continuum Publishing (a translation from Spanish, and originally published in 1970). The author offers an alternative to the banking model of education in which teacher and student roles are permanently, hierarchically separated and the teaching process oppressive, the leader investing in delivering his/her information which the student "learns" by valuing and acceptance. Freire's proposal is that we consider teacher-student and student-teacher in a dialogical relationship of mutual learning and liberation!

If mutual learning is the product of the the teacher-student/student-teacher dialog, the question that must be answered to complete the analogy is, "What is the product of the leader-follower/follower-leader dialog?" The best answer that presently comes to mind is "creativity." The paradigm shift provided by the model now becomes very clear. It is from the mechanistic, mutually oppressive roles of leading and following, transformed by dialog into the co-creative and liberating roles of leader-follower and follower-leader.

(Now "health" becomes clear; oppression is unhealthy and liberation is healthy!)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Model: A Vision of Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation, Visual Refinements

It has been 18 months since my last post. Even so, there is still a modest stream of visitors to The Leader-Follower and the site of the leadership model, A Vision of Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation.

Although some new ideas are emerging about the model, it is very largely unchanged. The exceptions are general refinements to details in its presentation and most usefully I hope, is a new, introductory, manipulable, three dimensional representation. My intention is that a new visitor can quickly understand the model's physical shape and layout and be better prepared to explore its details and apply them to real situations.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Innovation within a call center - how are team members provided with guidance and coaching?

If you are asking about innovation in how team members handle calls here are some suggestions about behaviors that are important to develop: RESPONDING, IMPROVISING and REALIZING.

RESPONDING is about following what callers have to say, receiving, clarifying and understanding the information they provide and the needs they express.

is about leading callers despite their often unpredictable way of communicating their needs and their unpredictable responses to questions.

REALIZING is about implementing the objectives of the call center however they are defined in terms of productivity, quality and service, for example.

Coaching these behaviors together will develop the important competency, innovation. These and other behaviors and competencies are shown in their interrelationships in the self-coaching model, Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

How does religious diversity impact team performance?

The person who asked this question explained, "I am doing a group project on Management class and there is not much information on this topic. We have 4 people in group and their parts are age, culture, gender. Mine is religion, religion's impact on teamwork, that's team performance." Here's my answer.

Rather than a complete answer, here's a potential starting point.

I have concluded that team performance is something to do with competences in visualization, organization, collaboration and contribution for team success. The performance of a religiously diverse team will be impacted according to the degree to which the values of the traditions represented in the team can be used to support these competencies.

The same is true for differences in age, culture and gender. I suspect there is "not much on this topic" because there is not too much to be learned from generalizations. What you need it a case study! To get to the specifics for religion, try turning your "group" into a team! Explore everyone's religious affiliation and see how each supports visualization, organization, collaboration and contribution for team success.

I referred the questioner to the self-coaching model, Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation. The same competencies are in this model, so I expect the questioner's project will quickly reveal the leadership challenges and opportunities in a religiously diverse team.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"We should measure corporations by their impact on all their constituencies."

As someone who has long maintained that an enterprise is sustainable so long as all its stakeholders are satisfied, I was delighted to read this from the Nation, "The Establishment Re-Thinks Globalization," which comments on Ralph Gomory's book, "Global Trade and Conflicting National Interests.

"Gomory's vision of reformation actually goes beyond the trading system and America's economic deterioration. He wants to re-create an understanding of the corporation's obligations to society, the social perspective that flourished for a time in the last century but is now nearly extinct. The old idea was that the corporation is a trust, not only for shareholders but for the benefit of the country, the employees and the people who use the product. "That attitude was the attitude I grew up on in IBM," Gomory explains. "That's the way we thought--good for the country, good for the people, good for the shareholders--and I hope we will get back to it.... We should measure corporations by their impact on all their constituencies."

I found two item of good news in this piece. One is a challenge to the wisdom of "free trade" as an inevitable good and the other is the recognition of the necessity to include all constituencies or, as I described them, all stakeholders.

The specific problem Gormory is addressing and for which he is proposing solutions, is America's loss of economic strength and the general impoverishment that occurs when corporations acting globally fail to support the needs of their local stakeholders. In the context of leadership, these leaders who (un)consciously ignore a constituency have a narrowed vision and (un)consciously externalize costs to the neglected constituency. As can be seen in the first figure, any stakeholder that is excluded has no part in improvising, structuring and realizing solutions.

The general phenomenon is the same whether the externalized costs appear as auto industry unemployment and subsequent family and community dislocation, Enron employees' lost pensions or the pain of the Iraqi population. The institutions and their leaders lose these stakeholders' respect, their interest in conforming and willingness to respond. The second figure underscores how these potentially enthusiastic followers are excluded from the organization, are thus unable to contribute or collaborate with other stakeholders in finding solutions.

There appears to be a growing population who consider factors beyond stock price in their assessment of corporations as potential employers, good citizens and investment vehicles. This re-examination of Ralph Gomory's work is very timely.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chief Responsibility Officer - CXO of the Month?

Almost exactly a year ago, in my post ChiefInnovation Officer I identified how CXOs are being named according to a variety of core corporate values like quality, information, learning and, at that time, innovation. Today the latest flavor is CRO or Chief Responsibility Officer which is so real that there is a magazine, "CRO" which is hosting its second (already) annual meeting of CROs in April.

A couple of things come to mind. Although I have not plotted the introduction rate of CXO functions over time I have the impression it is accelerating and wonder what that might mean. The other is that if there is a trend, what does it suggests about the next CXO function?

What is the job of the CRO? I'm not going to try to exhaustively define this but rather observe that its origins appear in the ideas around corporate social responsibility, i.e. that corporations should be good citizens and care for the environment, underprivileged and so on. As in the emergence of the earlier CXO functions it certainly appears the right thing to do, to ensure a corporation fulfills all its responsibilities beyond making money for its investors. But what are these responsibilities?

It is necessary that a corporation accepts the responsibility to satisfy all its stakeholders: investors, employees, customers, providers, partners, governments, local communities, and now including the environment, global communities. If any one of these stakeholders is unsatisfied the business is unsustainable, which becomes obvious earlier with dissatisfied investors and later with a dissatisfied global community, although those cycle-times may be-a-changin'.

There is a downside, however. It takes an individual to respond. Responsibility can only be taken, i.e. the commitment to respond can only be made, by an individual and it is a pretense to believe one person can take responsibility for the actions of another. The buck stops in the corner office because the occupant is expected to ensure that people in his/her organization do take responsibility and if they do not s/he has failed in managing and/or leading.

So, if someone else is in charge of others behaving responsibly with respect to a corporation's stakeholders, what does the CEO do? Meanwhile, does the CRO position open the door for thinking, "although I don't like what I see, I need not worry about it because that's the CRO's responsibility?"

A Leader-Follower can always be helped by good examples and role models. However, as this edge of the tetrahedral model "A Vision of Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation" shows,responding is about doing something new,innovating, as an action following some sort of stimulus, in a collaboratively negotiated fashion so the resulting contribution is satisfactory to all concerned.

The opposite, complementary edge of the model is about structuring, i.e. leading for implementation by providing vision and organization! We could jump to the conclusion that is the CRO's role. Wrong! It is the individual's responsibility to self-manage by visualizing and organizing thoughts, values and actions to implement what responsibility means to to him/her.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

A Vision of Leadership is now named Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation

The name of the model, A Vision of Leadership has been changed to Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation. All references in this blog will be amended.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Vision of Leadership - Access to the Interactive Model

The domain name has become unavailable as the url for the model. The interactive version will therefore be inaccessible until new arrangements are made. Unfortunately, the links from this blog to the model will not function as intended.

Meanwhile, The Leader-Follower incorporates full details of the model. Entry pages include:

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Interactive Leadership, the Associate and the Leader-Follower

Business Week 10/2/06 cites a study by CO2 Partners: Managers seeking advice tend to ignore lower grade workers, the one's who "actually make the stuff or are dealing with customers," which conclusion is supported by survey data.

Employees who say their bosses "often" ask them for advice:
  • Those with high school diploma or less, 24%
  • College graduates, 54%
  • Those earning less than $25,000 annually, 30%
  • Those earning more than $75,000 annually, 52%
These results reminded me of some of my observations in an earlier post, Interactive Leadership and how that relates to the concept of The Leader-Follower.

I'm associating a boss's "often asking for advice" with the boss stopping leading for a while and by inquiring, placing the employee in a temporary position of leadership. By drawing on some aspect of the employee's expertise and experience, by asking for advice and listening, the boss is adopting a follower role. Without this flexibility on the part of the boss, we get into a "chain of command" process in which the boss protects his power of position, using it to control the employee who does whatever appears appropriate to retain his or her job.

As I write, I am recognizing yet again the power our language holds over us and how it can promote the declining values of our culture rather than those which are new and vibrant. "Boss" and "employee" are incongruent. The only boss I know who is not an employee is a board member - a CEO is an employee and so is a Vice President or Director even while they can also be described as bosses. Ideally, every employee is a leader-follower, giving advice and receiving it as necessary to accomplish the organizational or team objectives. Fortunately, there is new language emerging. W.L. Gore among others now use the term "associate," de-emphasizing distinctions of positional power and highlighting the association brought about by shared objectives.

I believe the associate role implies interactive leadership and I want to briefly explore that in reference to A Vision of Leadership (now Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation).

In the "associate" concept, the values lead and follow are united by respect which permits the interchangeability of leader and follower roles, the interaction of leader and follower or interactive leadership. An associate is a leader-follower.

In an organization in which position power differentials still exist, interactive leadership supports healthier information exchanges than are possible with pure command and control or transactional leadership. In a collaboration or leaderless team where position power is absent, however, contributions become even more effective. In this way, interactive leadership can occur both in an organization and a collaboration and in each case this is possible when those involved perceive themselves as leader-followers.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Free Leadership Coaching !!!

(A Vision of) Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation is already a reference in two university courses but there's nothing like testing a leadership model using real workplace issues and have the users themselves report the results. Hence this experiment and offer.

You are a candidate for free, confidential, leadership coaching if you:

  • Face a personal leadership challenge that you are ready to discuss with me in private.
  • Can devote one uninterrupted hour at your computer on a weekday, between 7 am and 6 pm PST.
  • Use Skype (or audio IM) + Webcam or can support my remote access to your video-conference system.
I am committed to:
  • Respond to every request. (If there are too many I will announce that.)
  • Make my best efforts, using A Vision of Leadership, to help you find a way to address the leadership challenge you face.
  • Keep the content of our conversation confidential.
To participate:
  • Email to my personal mailbox, a short (100 to 300 words) description of the issue you wish to address, including alternate dates and times for one hour of coaching together with your videoconference information.
  • During the 5 working days following your coaching session, apply what you discover.
  • Afterwards, enter a comment (anonymously if you wish) into this blog, including: the challenge, lessons from coaching, results in the workplace and observations about A Vision of Leadership.
I look forward working with you.

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