Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Walking the Talk

I didn't expect to continue to write about the model A Vision of Leadership (now Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation) however I gain new insights as I work with it, this one about "walking the talk." I first came across the expression early in the nineties and ever since have taken it as a reminder that it is appropriate to do or at least be able to do whatever one recommends to others. One not only gains from the presumably beneficial action but models it for others, leading by example. Conversely, one would fail to walk the talk and be considered hypocritical if one claimed to value something but neglected it in one's actions. I was content with that until I found some greater depth to this idea in the tetrahedral model.

In re-writing the descriptions of the features I repeatedly mixed up the ideas of leading others and leading oneself. There is a set of descriptions for each case and one day I will document both. Most recently I decided to adopt the convention that leadership is primarily about oneself and the effects one might have on others are secondary, arising only from effects one has on oneself. According to this convention the values lead and follow are about leading and following oneself but what does that mean?

A visualization is the imagined outcome by a leader of his/her creating structures to implement, improvising in order to innovate and realizing some objective through this innovation and implementation. This same visualization can be shared with others to provide them direction but that is secondary to providing direction for the visualizing leader.

In the metaphor of the tetrahedron, leadership is described by the total volume enclosed by all its features and that volume can be bounded by all four corners, all four faces or just one face and the opposing corner. The corner opposing 'visualization' is 'follow' and thus we have leadership when one who would follow adopts the visualization of one who would lead. If leader and follower are the same, following oneself means being true to one's own visualization.

Leadership is primarily about being intellectually honest or walking one's own internal talk. Although it may later be the same, this is not the talk that is shared with others but the talk one has with oneself prior to sharing it with others! In this way I have transformed my understanding of 'walking the talk' from acting congruently with already espoused values to acting congruently with values arising in the moment, espoused by oneself to oneself. No-one except the leader him/herself can observe whether their actions are consistent with their intuition, best judgment and conscience. Only I know if I am walking my talk!

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