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).

1 comment:

Prasad Kaipa said...

Very nice to see you back in mutual exploration, Chris. Your magic and strength came in cocreation and reflection.

One thing that I learned in past 15 years since we met is that an idea matures in the relationship between people. Not in the thinker nor in the actor -- neither in the follower not the leader but when the roles interchange -- magic happens. I call this emergence of new roles along with maturation of new ideas. WE have seen that between us and with Russ.

Whenever I took ownership or authorship or leadership for what happened between us, the relationships broke. Because the process of leadership or innovation true is a co-creation. You are creating me creating you creating each other -- that is how I understand co-creation. So leadership begins with followership resonates strongly with me though i would like to take away causality in the equation and say that between a leader and follower, leadership emerges. The emergence is nurtured when both parties are freely exploring both roles. That is what leads to true breakthrough innovation.

Look forward to seeing where all this emerges,

Camp: Hyderabad