Leadership Emerging

Russ Volckmann

Inc. cover“CEO Survey: Forward March,” Inc. Special Issue 500: Meet This Year’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies, Inc. September 2008. P. 212.

Elements of their CEO Survey a spread liberally throughout the publication show no statistics that I could find and excerpt out very few comments. They asked CEO’s to define their leadership styles. Here is the sampling of their response. These are entrepreneurs who are experiencing success in their respective industries.

Laid back with a single focus: the client. I wear sandals and shorts to work and lock people out of meetings when they’re late.
Ron Huber, Achieve Internet

I’m a big believer in getting everyone involved in decision-making, but once the path is chosen and communicated, I expect everyone to get the job done without additional supervision.
Kevin Burke, Centuria

Velvet fist: a cross between velvet glove and iron fist.
Steve Munroe, SANBlaze Technology

I do not believe in micromanaging. I give people enough rope to climb to the next level. Unfortunately, some decide to hang themselves with it.
Jonathan Fine, Sting Surveillance

General George Patton said it something like this: Never tell people how to do things. Tell ‘em what needs doing, and they’ll surprise you with their ingenuity.
Derek LaFavor, Selling Source

Very hands on. Too much, actually—I overcommit myself and do not delegate as much as I should.
Daniel LaBroad, Ovation Health and Life Services

I have an authoritarian leadership style. I think I am fair and consistent, but I know what needs to be done and pay my employees well, so I expect quality.
Anthony Jimenez, MicroTech

I tried different approaches, from being a friend to demanding excellence, but I have found the single best way to lead is to show respect to your staff and allow them to grow in their positions.
David Aitken, Heritage Web Solutions

JFDI: Just f‡@$ing do it.
Trey Hollinsworth, Hollingsworth Capital Partners

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CSLT coverJames K. Hazy, Jeffrey A. Goldstein, and Benyamin B. Lichtenstein, Eds . Complex Systems Leadership Theory: New perspectives from Complexity Science on Social and Organizational Effectiveness.Mansfield, MA. ISCE Publishing, 2007.

Sara Ross reviews one of the chapters from this book in this issue of Integral Leadership Review. This presentation is intended to provide a little bit wider sampling of the material and discussion found here. It is am important book that bears consideration by anyone seeking to understand leadership, leaders and leading. Here is a book that supports the notion that leadership is not just about leaders. Beginning with the editors’ Introduction, leadership theory is explored under the notion that leadership is an emergent phenomenon within complex systems and contexts that is manifested by the interactions and networks that occur among individual agents or elements. These concepts are addressed throughout the book in treatments of greater or lesser complexity, including mathematical modeling.

Ultimately, we find a common thread that “ leadership in complex systems takes place during interactions among agents when those interactions lead to changes in the way agents expect to relate to one another in the future.” (p. 7) Furthermore, “ Effective leadershipoccurs when the changes observed in one or more agents (i.e. leadership) leads to increased fitness for that system in its environment. We define fitness in relation to some metric of sustainability, especially in terms of evolutionary selection.” (p. 7) Thus, leadership is treated more like a verb than a noun. It is a continuous social process.

This whole systems view over time seeks to “illuminate the underlying generative mechanisms of change, innovation, creativity, growth and adaptation.” As I understand the contributors to this volume, notions of fitness and adaptation are to be interpreted broadly, as indicated by inclusion of the notion of innovation. Adaptation does not always mean systems change in relation to changes already having occurred in the environment or context. It can also mean systems change in anticipation of or seeking to create change in interaction with the environment or context.

David Schwandt and David Szabla, “Systems and Leadership: Coevolution or mutual Evolution Towards Complexity,” see a movement from a reductionist/rational worldview to one of holism and non-rationality in the discussion of systems and leadership. The complexity related to systems and leadership is just now being acknowledged, and the co-evolution of the fields has occurred through the interaction of content and theory-practice processes. The implications are that in a “well-educated and free society, the emphasis on person-centered leadership can be reduced to deal with increasing complexity”. To achieve this there is a need for greater understanding of “norms and values that reinforce our dependence.”

Bill McKelvey and Benyamin Lichtenstein write about leadership in stages of emergence. In level 1 “emergence focuses on how network-level properties come into being through the interactions across moderately heterogeneous agents” and there is very little implied about leadership. Level 2 sees emergent groups that shows “how interactions among agents generate emergent order in the form of semi-autonomous groups” and do not generally address leadership and influence. Level 3 is emergent hierarchical complexity, which sees emergence as qualitative novelty with a formal hierarchy that includes agents, groups and organizational dynamics. Level 4 is emergent coordination complexity in which there is a need for adaptive capability to respond to complicated causal flows. The system is in constant flux and “there is a critical need for leadership throughout the system, [in which] the role of leadership is diffuse and hard to pin down.” The implications are that there is a need for a combination of leadership styles:

  • Generating the conditions for ‘bottom-,’ agent-initiated organizing;
  • Managing resources and making large-scale strategic moves through ‘top-down’ managerial leadership, and;
  • Facilitating the interaction of these two poles, to ‘manage the coordination rhythms…between top-down hierarchical dynamics and emergent complex adaptive systems. (all from Uhl-Bein, et al, “Complexity Leadership Theory: Shifting Leadership from the Industrial Age to the Knowledge Era,” The Leadership Quarterly ,18(4): 298-318).

Navigation of these and the questions of how to do this is the subject of much of the work in this volume and the answers are, quite predictably, emerging.

Donde Plowman and Dennis Duchon, “Emergent Leadership: Getting Beyond Heroes and Scapegoats,” seeks to shift the idea of leadership from that of a role or person to an emergent behavior. These “properties” of leading are distributing intelligence, fostering conversation, sustaining tension and looking for patterns.” These authors state that there is a leadership dilemma: “ Leaders are responsible for creating organizational structures that bring about desired outcomes, yet people and groups in organizations will self-organize in spite of organizational blueprints.”Complexity theory offers a way out of this dilemma. Every interaction in an organization provides the potential for leadership because there is a potential for influence to occur. Consequently, organizations should be designed for emergence, rather than for specific outcomes or “fit.”

Benyamin Lichtenstein and his fellow authors, of “Complexity Leadership Theory: An Interactive perspective of Leading in Complex Adaptive Systems” state, “ leadership (as opposed to leaders) can be seen as a complex dynamic process that emerges in the interactive ‘spaces between’ people and ideas…leadership is a dynamic that transcends the capabilities of individuals alone; it is the product of interaction, tension, and exchange rules governing changes in perceptions and understanding.” Furthermore, “ a leadership event [is] a perceived segment of action whose meaning is created by the interactions of actors involved in producing it”.

This summary and the many additional chapters that I cannot take the time and space to explore here should be seen as representing the high potential for the interaction, relationship, mutuality of complex systems leadership theory and integral theory. Seeing leadership as an emergent property of a system, as something that transcends [but includes] individuals, is emergent, and is engaged with norms and values, culture, should suggest several ways that the two theoretical approaches can benefit from greater conversation among its theorists and practitioners.

I am reminded of a comment by Don Beck: “I view the Graves-Spiral Dynamics-Integral package to be unique in that it is less about levels and more about the dynamics of the emerging spiral, the master code that generates the other codes, and the manner in which emergence happens within diverse and even contrasting habitats.” This suggests further connections between adult development and complexity theory.

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Total leadership coverStewart D. Friedman. Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life. Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2008.

The author is the Founding Director of the Wharton Business School’s Leadership Program and has a career that included heading up leadership development for Ford. Thus, it is reasonable to suggest that his work is influencing the development of business leaders in the United States and abroad. It is not surprising that the author equates leadership with position, but he does this while pointing out that “the range of discretion, available resources, and breadth of impact are the same for individual contributors with no on below them, as for top executives.” Further, “Being a leader means inspiring committed action that engages people in taking intelligent steps, in a direction you have chosen, to achieve something that has significant meaning for all relevant parties—to win, in other words.” And, “Everyone has the potential to lead, and to do so in all aspects of life. Leaderin its most important sense means being the agent of your own life, influencing the things you care about most in the world to make it a richer life.”

Thus, this book is about a holistic approach to being a leader, to be real, whole and innovative, customized for the individual. This involves using all aspects of one’s life to foster the health and energy of the whole person. This book provides you with perspectives and activities to take you through the Total Leadership Program. One begins by getting clear about what is important, including taking the time for reflection on core values and vision for the world one wishes to create. At that point, develop authenticity by using “The Four-Way Attention Chart,” to outline the importance and use of time and energy in the domains of one’s life, work/school, home/family, and community/society/self: mind, body and spirit. After assessing one’s satisfaction with the current use of time and energy in these domains the work shifts to acting with integrity.

Approaches include talking with stakeholders in one’s life and getting feedback, designing experiments for change and involving others in the process. During this process it is important to reflect throughout to support learning and growth. This includes action learning around one’s goals and assessment of time and energy use in the domains, revisiting stakeholder expectations, reconsidering what is important and making adjustments to your actions. The author emphasizes the value of using a coach to support this process.

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McKeeAnnie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, and Frances Johnston. Becoming a Resonant Leader. Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2008.

HBP is in its leadership development period. Here is another book on how to be a really, really good leader. As is the case with the Friedman book (above), the value added here is that individuals become effective leaders by developing themselves as whole persons. In this case the emphasis is on emotional intelligence, but the principle still holds. In this case, there is a reference to Ken Wilber, primarily around the importance of understanding the complexity of social systems.

In developing resonance, one starts with one’s self. You must build it internally in order to have it with others. This involves developing emotional intelligence, congruity and clarity about one’s personal aspirations. Furthermore, building resonance in relationships is critical to successful leadership. Making explicit the vision and the practices of resonance is key here. But it doesn’t stop at interpersonal relationships or relationships within a team. It extends to all of the levels of the social system through understanding interdependence and complexity. It is essential that several levels be engaged in change and development processes.

The authors draw on their experiences in other parts of the world, including involvement with UNDP leadership programs designed to support HIV/AIDS Programs. Throughout the book are tools to support one’s reflection and learning. One such tool is a “Philosophical Orientation Questionnaire.” Here you get feedback on your philosophy in three categories: pragmatic, intellectual and human values. I took the instrument and ended up with human, intellectual and pragmatic in that order. Guidelines for interpretation are a bit wanting, but I like that the emphasis is on one’s interpretation of what the scoring means. I would add, however, that the best questions (for me) is how do these different value sets show up in my life, when do they show up, how do they show up—or not?

The authors conclude:

“The best leaders move people. They engage people’s hearts and minds and help direct people’s energy, individually and collectively, toward a desired end. And resonant leaders create a climate that is ripe with enthusiasm, hope, mutual support, and commitment. In other words, they lead with emotional and social intelligence and create resonant climates that can, and do, support both leaders and followers as both groups engage in the hard work of achieving goals and bringing about change.”

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rockDavid Rock. Quiet Leadership: Six Steps to Transforming Performance at Work. New York: Collins, 2006.

Continuing attention to “how to” or development approaches to leadership, the author is a coach and recently known for his work in the application of neuroscience to leadership in collaboration with Jeffrey Schwartz, MD. Quiet leadership is a “six-step guide to a new way of having conversations, based on recent discoveries about how the brain works.” Furthermore, he asserts that coaching is fundamental to leadership in that leaders need to work on improving their ability to bring out high performance in others; in other words, the role of leaders is to develop the strengths and performance of others.

The book is divided into three parts: theory, explaining the six steps and putting those steps to use. In the first he explores how our mental maps are different, that each brain is unique and, therefore, so are the mental maps. This is due to how the brain hardwires everything in its experience. While deconstructing this hardwiring is practically impossible, creating new wiring is easy. “…if we want to improve people‘s performance, our job is to help them find new ways to approach situations that leaves their existing wiring where it is, and allows for the development and ultimately the hardwiring of new habits.”

The six steps are:

  • Think About Thinking, which involves putting process before content, accentuating the positive, remembering to stretch, focusing on solutions and letting others do all the thinking.
  • Listen for Potential, which includes, quiet leaders “listen to people and believe in others completely. They encourage and support others in being the best they can be, just in how they listen, without saying a word. They listen to people as though they have all the tools they need to be successful, and could simply benefit from exploring their thoughts and ideas out loud.”
  • Speak with Intent, which means being succinct, specific and generous.
  • Dance toward Insight, which involves awareness of a dilemma, reflection, illumination (aha!) and motivation. This is supported by the leader asking “thinking questions.” Essentially, I see these as coaching questions, like “How important is this issue to you…?”
  • Create New Thinking, which involves exploring current reality, exploring alternatives and tapping into others’ energy for generating action to achieve desired outcomes.
  • Follow-Up. Which generates reflection and learning about facts, emotions, motivation and implications.
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Additional Publications:

leader toFrances Hesselbein and Alan Shrader, Eds. Leader to Leader: Enduring Insights on Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass and the Leader to Leader Institute, 2008.

Reprints of publications in Leader to Leader, a very expensive journal, cheaper to find the cream here.

adamsJohn D. Adams, ed. Transforming Leadership, Second Edition. New York: Cosmo on Demand, 2005.

This is essentially a reissue of an earlier publication (1984) with articles written about leadership based on the point of view mostly of organization development consultants who were involved in the introduction of approaches to organizational transformation. This edition does contain new material. The principles that guide strategic leadership are:

  • Leadership is a State of Consciousness Rather Than a personality Trait or Set of Skills.
  • A Primary Role of the Leader is to Activate, establish, and Nurture a Focus on Vision, Purpose, and outcomes.
  • It is Cost Effective to Focus Attention on Energizing the Work Force.
  • A Systems Perspective is Necessary to Avoid Focusing on Symptoms instead of the Real Problems.
  • Attention to needed Support Systems is Essential to Achieving the Vision.