I find “leadership” to be a misused word. In today’s world where titles do not properly define one’s multiple roles, everyone leads to a certain extent. One can lead a project or a project component. Leadership must also be distributed for an organization to function efficiently and react quickly. In the older days, the Soviet air force operated such that their fighter pilots had to get permission from a remote central command to fire, translating into valuable time lost and a lack of trust. The US air force pilots operate more on an individual basis where they make their own tactical decisions based on their real-time assessment of the situation.
That said, what makes a “good” leader? I think that one of the best models is MIT’s “Four Capabilities Leadership Framework” (FCF). It breaks down leadership into 4 basic components:
1. Sensemaking: making sense of the world around us, coming to understand the context in which we are operating. (Data Gathering, Mapping)
2. Relating: developing key relationships within and across organizations. Understand the needs and perspectives of others. (This involves listening, understanding, advocating, connecting with others.)
3. Visioning: creating a compelling picture of the future. (Creating the map of where you want to be. Make it a shared vision.)
4. Inventing: designing new ways of working together to realize the vision. (Be creative; don’t accept that things can’t be done differently. I want to say “think outside the box” but I hate that term.)
Finally, each leader needs to discover their unique Change Signature – the leader's individual credo and characteristic way of creating change. This will draw upon his or her values, skills, experience, tactics, and personality in order to build trust, respect, and authenticity.
Unfortunately, many today like to jump straight into Visioning and Inventing but it simply will not work. Sensemaking and Relating take time and humility - you have to let go of your biases and realize that you may have been completely wrong. Remember the rule: “measure twice, cut once” (especially in light of resource and time constraints).
Will you have 100% buy-in? No. There is a time in this process to have open dialog where you want a difference of perspective and opinions but there must be a point of closure with decisions to move forward with actions. As my mentor, Prof. Arnoldo Hax, states "Consensus is 70% agreement, 100% buy-in".
I had a chance to learn about the Leadership model directly from Professor Deborah Ancona at MIT Sloan. She also mentioned that the “Golden Rule” is paramount – treat others as you wish to be treated.
For more information, you can google "Deborah Ancona", "Peter Senge", or start with this great introductory article: Leadership in the Age of Uncertainty.
Frank Lio is a Product Manager, Strategist, and Change Agent in the Hi-Tech industry. His growing track record of successes include creating 3 winning software products, leading nationwide seminars, and turning around a failing business unit. He is currently serving a dual role as Product Manager and Business Team Support Manager at Instron ITW.
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