Monday, October 31, 2005

Responding - Follow and Innovate?

Of course, a follower can't directly innovate but he/she certainly can support the process.

This is the fourth of six edges representing leadership practices, that together form the tetrahedral model, A Vision of Leadership (now Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation). After discussing the remaining edges in the next two posts, I will describe the faces of the completed tetrahedron - the outcomes, and then take a detailed look at its corners - the values that drive leadership.

When someone else is leading the innovative process and I am following, I participate by responding and making a contribution and collaborating to bring about the innovation. This may not sound like leadership, but it is. As a follower, if I am not responding and being part of the process I am unable to take the lead when that becomes necessary or optimal. I have this opportunity because in this model, as in the title of this blog, I identify the single actor in leadership as the leader-follower.

Should leading be important to me, responding is the 'price of admission.' If I choose to be unresponsive, contribution and collaboration cease and all that remains is structuring (the opposite edge and discussed immediately prior to this). My structuring and leading may be timely, necessary and welcome. However, so long as I am following and the collaboration and contribution are warranted, responding is the leadership practice that keeps innovation going and keeps me engaged.

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Structuring - How Leaders Implement.

Previously I introduced the two pairs of leadership values, lead and follow, innovate and implement, each value being held in relationship to it's pair by a leadership practice. The tetrahedron connects every value so there are four more combinations of values, each driving a specific practice.

is the practice whereby a leader supports implementation. As a leader my role is to provide a structure for my actions and others'. Specific outcomes of structuring are my visualization of what I would like implemented and the organization I believe is necessary to do so. Alternatively, if I want to implement something, I lead by being clear about what I want and by assembling the resources to accomplish it.

In an email inquiry, Skip Angel asked how, as a leader, he would know if he had accomplished these things. We know when we have a visualization (possibly a plan) and an organization - their presence is binary and easily measured and we are unable to act on our values lead and implement without these outcomes. Additionally, our visualization and organization will be degraded unless all their components are active. They will be described here shortly and are already described in A Vision of Leadership (now Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation). This suggests a check list would useful and that may be the best application of this Vision of Leadership. One might say it is a three dimensional check list identifying the systemic role of each item - each key element of leadership as expressed in this model.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Realizing Drives Innovation and Implementation

In the prior post I introduced respecting as a leadership practice that brought the values lead and follow together as powerfully interchangeable within the same person or within a relationship with one or many. My primary intention for this model is to include these two values that are often in tension, in a synergistic way.

For the names of the tetrahedron's other two corners I chose the values, Innovate and Implement, because of they are fundamental to any enterprise and because a tension usually exists between them as well. Innovate is about doing something previously unknown while implement is about doing something already known. These qualities go a long way to explain the cultures of engineering and production which, in spite of their differences must productively coexist. Realizing is a leadership practice common to both; something previously unknown is realized by innovation and something already known is realized by implementation.

That realizing and respecting are opposite each other in the model makes good sense. Respecting is a practice in the context of roles in a collaboration or organization, while realizing is a practice in the context of achieving results by visualization and contribution. I have some visualization of what this post is about and I am contributing from my understanding and both occur because I am in the process of realizing this post.

With no respecting, in the absence of collaboration and organization, roles are unlikely to be appropriate. With no realizing, in the absence of visualizing actions and contributing energies there are unlikely to be results. Realizing and respecting are necessary and complementary leadership practices.

[The image names an edge and two sides of the tetrahedral model, A Vision of Leadership (now Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation)]

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Respect Empowers Follower and Leader

Respecting was the idea that helped me understand the truth behind my contention, to the surprise of a colleague, that "the decision to follow is an act of leadership." It always appeared quite clear to me that, unless I am coerced, if I follow someone I do so because I respect them in one way or another. I suppose I always recognized that the reverse is also true but that exchange started an extensive inquiry leading to A Vision of Leadership (now Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation) .

If as a leader I do not respect those who follow me they will become disinclined to do so. The same can be said at a personal level - unless I respect myself I will be stalled. For example, I would fail to lead and make no decisions and even if I did, I would fail to follow through. I confess that I have some evidence of both these phenomena in my own experience.

In this way respecting becomes possibly the most important leadership practice. It is mutual respect that permits us to lead or follow, whether in the fluidity of a collaboration or the relative stability of an organization. Collaboration and organization are only possible with respect. In both we show respect to those who lead and follow and we respect our own capacities to do the same.

This linking of the value lead and the value follow by the practice of respecting means that followership and leadership are implicit in each other (yin and yang) and the value follow must be an integral part of a leadership model. It means, additionally, that there is no such thing as a leader or a follower. Each of us is both, we are leader-followers as I proudly proclaim in the title of this blog.

(The image is of one edge and two sides of a tetrahedral model)

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

A Vision of Leadership - A Heartfelt Vision

This is a physical model - illumination on a screen or printing on a surface. It is a mental model - ideas expressed as words in relationship, the projections of my recalled experience and formulated beliefs. It is presently an abstraction, an intellectual model. It is a map and not the territory.

It is unlikely that I can consciously and simultaneously focus upon the four values, six practices and four outcomes which, as a matrix of human energy contain the 'totality' of leadership as described. It may be possible that this vision of leadership can convey the complexity of the task and allow me to feel wonder when I am lucky enough to experience another's leadership and feel humility when someone responds to our own. At some level I suspect I manifest these (incidentally) fourteen qualities more or less according to the degree I can get out of my own way. So perhaps its initial value lies in appreciating what parts of it make sense and of those parts that do not make sense, whether I need to change my interpretations or my experience.

As I get into explicating this vision, starting with my next post, those of you who come across this blog and go on to look at the model and find something of interest are invited to critique and comment, to contribute to shaping and refining the vision. Truth emerges from radical honesty in relationships. Is it just possible that a heartfelt vision actually becomes the territory?

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A Vision of Leadership - A Tetrahedral Model!

Among the classic geometric solids, a tetrahedron has the unique qualities that each corner is connected to every other corner by an edge and that each face is connected to every other face, also by an edge. When a subject is unpacked by naming the corners, edges and faces in ways that comprehend these connections, we have a systemic, non-linear model unachievable with the more usual two-dimensional, drawn representations. I have used this process many times, applying it with clients as an envisioning or strategizing tool.

In the early days of working with tetrahedra, Prasad Kaipa and I had envisioned a clickable, rotatable, electronic image to replace the sometimes awkward 'unfolded' two dimensional representation but we never pursued it. Meanwhile, over some ten years, my research and consulting increasingly addressed leadership and I had sketched out many 'leadership pyramids.' Early this year I started an html design and with occasional spurts of effort progressed until I had something to upload this month. Unfortunately the model, A Vision of Leadership (now Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation), must reside elsewhere because text-oriented Blogger is unsuited to the image-linking aspect of the design. However, Blogger provides an ideal environment in which to air the model and receive feedback, which I invite.

(Later note. I apologize for the spelling error in the title. Unfortunately if I correct it the URL of this page changes and there are many references in this blog and external databases that will then be unable to connect to this original page.)

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

A Vision of Leadership - Origins and Acknowledgements

I have had wonderful and supportive colleagues in my 'independent' consulting. Before I write about A Vision of Leadership (now Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation), I want some of its roots to be known, particularly those who knowingly or not, made important contributions.

In the early nineties I had a collaboration with Prasad Kaipa. It comprised an exchange really. Prasad shared his thoughts about Eastern traditions and their relevance in the West and, as a student of learning, introduced me to the idea that learning really occurs when the teacher and student are willing to change roles. I saw that real communications begins only when barriers, e.g. organizational hierarchy, are displaced, even momentarily, by mutuality and openness. We emulated that in our conversations and ever since I have understood the free exchange of roles to be an essential component of the collaborative process.

With something of a marketing background and a penchant for diagramming and other visualization, I helped Prasad identify and develop a vehicle to augment his communication of complex topics. He had already used a tetrahedron illustration in an article and we discovered a way to add a third layer of conceptual relationships in the tetrahedron that would unravel complex subjects even further. Next we developed a method of inexpensively transforming the resulting two dimensional model into three dimensions. Prasad went on to use this communications approach in programs at Ford and Boeing among others. I used it with clients to define, refine and clarify strategies and personally, as a 'lens' through which to examine whatever interested me. A recurring subject was leadership and I still have on my hard drive many 'leadership pyramids,' each advancing my understanding a little but none approached general usefulness until the most recent.

In a later collaboration with Russ Volckmann and Galen Griswold, leaving pyramids behind and framing it quite differently, we worked on a leadership model (detailed by Russ in The Leadership Opportunity) intended to be the theoretical foundation of a coaching program. During one of our conversations I expressed the idea that a decision to follow is an act of leadership. The strong resistance this idea received told me it contained something important and it took another three years to understand the idea's implications and then test them with clients.

Lastly, throughout the periods described and since, I have been in occasional and rewarding conversations with Bernie Dekoven a.k.a Major Fun, Junkmaster et al. We provide mutual support for our creative endeavors. His innovative technography process inspired my use of the computer and net as collaborative tools and his fascination with game design brought important and lighthearted feedback and encouragement for the interactive visuals I use in a variety of ways.

The next post will be more directly about A Vision of Leadership (now Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation).

Friday, October 21, 2005

Missing, a Follower.

We are blessed with many, many definitions and models of leadership but have we generally become victims of our history and permitted it to intrude into many of these, sanctioning the omission of a follower?

Our models suffer from a linguistic awkwardness because the word leadership focuses our attention on leading and it has only been in recent years that the word 'followership' has been given the legitimacy provided by inclusion in a few dictionaries. Then there is the awkwardness arising because these models tend to deny the reality of our experience that everyone in association with others and particularly in a formal organization is both a leader and a follower. So, if as a culture, we have not acknowledged the evidence of our own experience and reinforced our denial with supporting language, it is no wonder that there is mystery and confusion around leadership.

My strong suspicion is that our tribal roots still pervade our un/consciousness. In a world that assumes scarcity and where competition prevails, leading has historically been associated with winning and following with loosing and of course no-one wants to be a looser. This goes a long way to explain the early chaos around the hurricane Katrina emergency and the 'team' struggles in The Apprentice, let alone the corporate scandals of recent years. Behavior that is repeated despite its obvious ill effects is generally called an addiction. This is not to say that all our leadership models support addictive behavior but some may, surely unintentionally, enable it.

The good news is that Warren Bennis describes followership, Jim Collins identifies the humility component of leaders of 'great' corporations and Beck and Cowan describe the green and purple memes of open system consciousness, just as examples. Then, fortunately, there are the many practitioners of a 'new' leadership who together are shifting the cultural center of gravity with behaviors that comprehend a leadership that is about something more than being in front.

P.S. Less than 24 hours after posting this I discovered Dee Hock's comprehensive article, Leader-Follower. I came to this via Joi Ito's piece, Open Source Leadership.