Sunday, September 14, 2008

We need to be Leaderful not Leaderless.

I have describe in earlier posts that a larger community of leaders on a team brings balance, more collaboration and greater success to the work of teams. With shared leadership, everyone has an opportunity to lead. Leadership is a decision that you make, not a title bestowed.

My recent study of shared leadership led me to the insight of Professor Joe Raelin of Northeastern University that I encountered in his book Creating Leaderful Organizations: How to Bring Out Leadership in Everyone.

Raelin's concept of leaderful practice resonated with me immediately in his preface where he declares that leaderful practice "directly challenges the conventional view of leadership as 'being out in front.'....everyone shares the experience of serving as leader, not sequentially, but concurrently and collectively."

I appreciate the leaderful paradigm that comes from Raelin's work. I have always been challenged with the leaderless concept that appears in some shared leadership models. Even though an organization or team might not have a titled leader, the need for leadership does not disappear. The term leaderless doesn't feel right. A team still needs vision, relating and inventing, all activities associated with leadership. The leaderful paradigm is a perfect counterpoint that suggests that more leadership, not less leadership, is the appropriate organizational goal. Leaderful suggests that there is a leadership opportunity for everyone.

I intend to continue my review of the Raelin book. If you are interested in the core leaderful tenets, you can get an introduction from the Leaderful Institute web site.

My immediate Quiet Leader call to action however, is to ask the question, Am I supporting and cultivating the leadership efforts of my teamates in order to form a more leaderful team? Are you?

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and leaderfully.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Leadership Dance Requires Balance

Do you do the leadership dance? Do you keep your balance?

Leaders who share leadership with other leaders under a shared leadership model end of doing a bit of a leadership dance. Leaders who do it best try to keep the dance balanced and try to stay nimble.

The picture of a dance came to me after reviewing the work of Deborah Ancona and and William Issacs on the The 4-Player Model: A Framework for Healthy Teams. In this research and study, they provide a mechanistic view of the work of teams. They suggest that team effort is compromised of four core acts:
Move — This act establishes a direction and sets the team in motion.
Example: “Let's build Product X. Product X is the best idea out there.”

Follow — The follow act provides support for the move and serves the function of completion.
Example: “I agree with the arguments you've made. Product X is the way to go.”

Oppose — The oppose act questions the move that has been initiated.
Example: “The data don't support your claims. We'll be in real trouble if we go with Product X.”

Bystand — Bystanding provides perspective and invites the team to be more reflective. A bystander might bring in data from another team, an historic perspective, or some insight about the operations of the team itself.
Example: “We tried some of these same ideas two years ago and they didn't work. What do we think has changed?”

As a leader who is sharing leadership with multiple team members, you will find that there are times when you will lead, but then other times when someone else is leading and you will follow. You might have to oppose if you don't agree with another leader's actions. There are other times when you need to take a break and study and gain other insight. The shift in activities as this occurs in team efforts makes up the leadership dance.

The work of Ancona and Issaacs goes on to suggest that balance and flexibility in the dance activities are keys to healthy, creative and productive teams. If any one activity dominates, dysfunction can occur.

Please review this work at the MIT Leadership center for more insight. But more importantly, leaders should watch their dance steps. It needs to be balanced and nimble.

Thanks for reading. Please lead quietly and keep dancing.