We have been seduced by the thought that leadership means that the person designated as "leader" does something that makes others what to do something too. A corollary of that is that "others" don't want to do anything and wouldn't, if it wasn't for the "leader."
What if that wasn't true? What if, let's just suppose, the "others" really, really wanted to do something. Consider for a moment if you might be an "other," do you want to do something? Do you have dreams and desires? Do you think you just might have solutions to some problems you see everyday? Do you?
So, if "others" do have dreams, desires and possible solutions, what role does the "leader" play? What if, "leader" was a job description, much like teacher, or mentor, or janitor? If "leadership" was a job title, what would the job description look like? Humm, maybe a little like teacher, a little like mentor, a little like coach, and a little like trailblazer, and maybe just a little like scout? Maybe the "leaders" job is to evoke from the "others" their innate abilities, dreams and desires? Maybe the "leader" is really a cheerleader with vision?
That leads to another seduction. "Leaders" often think that that job title means they can now do whatever they want. They have dreams desires and potential solutions that they really, really want to try out. Good on them! What that usually comes with, however, is the whining about the "others." Stories about how "they" don't understand, how "they" won't follow through, about how "they" don't really care and worries that what they do or want to do won't last.
This seduction is most often seen in organizations where the leadership changes about every 4-5 years for top leaders and about every two years for up and coming stars.
Michael Watkins surveyed Fortune 500 company HR Directors and found that executives had an average tenure of 4 years; high-potential managers 2 1/2 - 3 years, he quotes Brad Smart as saying that the cost of a failed executive hire was 15 to 24 times base compensation.
This is expensive in every way. The constant yanking around that happens as "leaders," who believe this seduction, strive to make their own mark, at the cost of the organizations progress. This becomes a never-ending cycle, one that organizations survive in spite of the turmoil it causes.
In some organizations and in many governmental roles tenure is mandated with the belief that change will prevent corruption. This process has become so ingrained that leadership succession is almost mandated in some companies.
Organizations that continually rotate leaders select for those that can "get their way" the fastest. The focus on manipulative power, political cunning, and strong will have more to say about the character of the person, than about their ability to serve and build the organization.
These two seductions create a lazy approach to leadership. It is way easier to try and get your own way than it is to listen and hear what the collective is saying. History is littered with "leaders," including kings and others, who tried to go against the will of the people and paid dearly. It is much easier to frighten and cajole, manipulate and out smart than it is to erase self-doubt, clarify vision and believe in others even when they don't believe in themselves.
We are not taught collaborative techniques to work and play together, we are taught competitive techniques that keep us separate and reinforce the belief that one someone is better than anyone else.
Knowing these seductions and being able to address them is critical as we move into regenerative business practices. The pressing need for organizations to be flexible and resilient, the demand for innovation that is off the charts, all call for a leadership that is skilled in evoking the very best from "others." This kind of shift cannot be done by one person - no matter how skilled and forceful. In fact force is the opposite of innovation as it is an expression of fear, not experimentation, trust or curiosity - all components of creativity and innovation.
The ability to be collaborative, to evoke the best from others and to create a culture of excited experimentation and innovation are the hallmarks of the new transformative leadership and are the new measures of a leader practicing resilient intelligence.
By applying the ‘methods’ nature uses to create thriving ecologies, by acting with each other the same way that the rest of the planet’s life forms interact, by recognizing our interdependence and working to strengthen it, transformational leaders use the dynamics of systems and the Resilient Values Set™ to engage with each other that evoke the best from us.
All of us are seeking to contribute, to grow in service to what is important to us. We want to contribute to the grater good and we want to see the results of our labor create a thriving world, not a desiccated desert, yet when we look around that not what we see. Knowing that nature is both regenerative and distributive surely gives us a clue about how we should behave. The world should be better for our presence. Everyone should benefit from what we do, make, create, but that’s not the case.
There are just two of the fifteen values from the Resilient Values set™ that can make a huge difference in our lives, if we but lived them: Work to Maintain the Health of the Whole, and All actions Create the Conditions that Support LIFE. Think about these and consider who living just these two would impact your own daily life choices.
I’m open for conversation and coaching – contact me anytime: (509) 934-5930 or by email at Bridge2Partnership@gmail.com
Kathryn Alexander, MA
Regenerative approaches require a deep integration with nature. Collaboration requires different structures and ways of working together. If we want different results we have to do things differently!