Monday, January 09, 2006

Interactive Leadership

I was looking at the search terms that are used to find my business site, Strategies for Leadership and noticed "interactive leadership," which finds it because of the "interactive, leadership model" I have described. I don't want visitors to be disappointed so I will reward them with something on the subject here and learn in the process. Before I write my own perceptions/understandings I thought it best to check what's been blogged on the subject and although there's not a lot, it might prove interesting:

  • In " Interactive Leadership - Leaders Who Listen" Gerard Kelly (8/17/05) uses a computer analogy, "Listening is where leadership begins. In a time of transition and change, it is where leadership must linger for much longer than we are used to. In the terminology of Computer Science, an interactive programme is one in which the operator is in direct communication with the computer, receiving immediate responses to input data. This is contrasted with batch processing, in which the necessary data and instructions are prepared in advance and processed by the computer with little or no intervention from the operator. Interactive leaders, then, are those who not only impact their environment but are impacted by it; who are as much shaped by relationships as they are shapers of them; who respond not only to principle but to particularity. The heart of interactivity is listening, and looking and learning are its constant companions. Interactive leaders are those who examine and explore; who research and respond. To lead interactively is to be a lifelong learner."
  • In "If Women Ruled the World" Published Sunday, September 25, 2005 by Mercutio, written by TARA SHARAFUDEEN we have a gender distinction, "Men traditionally tend to be more "transactional", that is they view the job as a series of transactions with subordinates, exchanging rewards and punishments for service. They are more likely to use the force of their organizational position and formal authority. Women described themselves as more "transformational", getting subordinates to put the group above themselves for a greater goal. . . . . Judy Rosener who conducted the "International Women's Forum Survey of Men and Women Leaders", surveyed women who described themselves as transactional leaders and found them to have an interactive leadership style. They encouraged participation, information sharing, tried to energize and raise the self worth of subordinates. They believed that to give their best, people need to feel good about their job and themselves." (LATER NOTE: I have built on these ideas in Leadership and Gender.) (NOTE OF 9/23/06. I've come across this further information about Judith Rosner's work.)
  • In "Beyond the Hype: Do Blogs Provide a Platform for Leadership?" Edward Deevy (7/18/05), I unexpectedly found a blogging comparison, " Later, as a consultant to a number of client organizations I advocated the concept of "leadership by walking around." At that time I stressed the importance of INTERACTIVE leadership. My bias was that leaders needed to not merely tell people what to do but they also needed to listen. . . . For a number of years I have recommended that organizational leaders interact regularly with employees in meetings and conferences. . . . The development of the blogging platform just a few years ago now makes it possible for leaders to hold ongoing "conversations" with employees and customers. What's really noteworthy is that the new software makes genuine INTERACTIVE dialogue possible."
Risking oversimplification, we have interactive leadership defined in contrast to transactional leadership, the analogy of interactive processing contrasted with batch processing, the traditional gender distinctions and the identification of an interactive leadership opportunity in blogging. What I'm identifying is that different types of power are being exercised. Transactional leadership it is about the power of position and interactive leadership is about the power of relationships. Interaction encompasses a broad range of relationship content and style whereas transactions involve more specific and controlled relationships. I find both the transactional and interactive leadership styles implicit in the model, A Vision of Leadership (now Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation), transactional leadership being associated with the value "implement" and interactive leadership with "innovate."

Implementation is about accomplishing a targeted outcome by following a planned process, managing the transactions that will lead to a specific, repeatable objective. Examples of implementation include registering an automobile, constructing a building and shipping $1B worth of products. Many of the manufactured goods we acquire, hardware and software, are intended to make implementation easier, quicker, cheaper and more reliable, whether it is buying groceries or managing a corporation. Implementation is about managing resources of material, energy and information through a series of predefined transactions. Until recently, except for household resources, this has traditionally been a man's world, especially when it comes to competition for resources. Implementation is usually conducted within a hierarchy of positions, each higher level taking responsibility for more resources. What I'm describing is often called management and I am perceiving that transactional leadership may indeed be management in disguise. The ideas of "transactional" and "interactive" may usefully inform the much discussed difference between management and leadership.
In contrast to implementation, innovation is about doing something that has never been done before, at least in the environment in which it occurs. While innovators may implement predefined transactions to establish conditions for innovation like concentrating, avoiding distraction, bringing the appropriate resources together, setting goals and allocating time and money, they innovate in the absence of predefined transactions and outcomes. I believe innovators engage a process, in relationship with others and/or their muse or higher power, out of which innovations emerge. This has much in common with the traditionally feminine paradigm of participation, sharing and inclusion and could well be described as interactive leadership. I would not be surprised to discover that feminine qualities are conducive to innovation. Giving birth and nurturing our young, particularly, have to be right up there on any scale of innovation. However, I feel inadequately informed on what appears to be a very timely issue and would be interested in the results of any research that explores innovation along the gender dimension. (LATER NOTE. I accepted my own challenge in Leadership and Gender.)

Blogs would appear to support interactive leadership and thus innovation. A couple of months ago I quickly looked for CEO blogs that included leadership/management-employee interaction and found none. To the contrary I found a couple where employees vented to each other, in the absence of communications with leadership/management. I would also be interested in examples of interactive leadership in CEO blogs.

A quick google on "interactive leadership" showed many more web sites results than my Technorati blog search, so I may return to this subject. So far I have been reminded that it is because of their transactional nature that implementation activities are relatively easy to outsource and offshore which brings pressure for more innovation by domestic enterprises. The implementation component to every human activity insures that transactional leadership will always be a necessary skill but probably in proportionately less demand locally. This micro-study leads me to appreciate that a widespread call for innovation generates a demand for what some are calling "interactive leadership," explaining the appearance of this search term.

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Isaak Estes said...

Interactive Leadership is great because there will be exchange of ideas between the leader and people.

Tevin Vidal said...

Encourage participation and continuously try to make employees feel part of an organization in a variety of ways.

Tevin Vidal
Leadership Coaching