is the fall newsletter. I wanted to get this out before the snow flew.
But as it turns out, I recently traveled to the snow. I checked into
the Mt Washington Hotel in the mountains of New Hampshire on a Friday
afternoon in preparation for giving a talk that evening about Balancing
Your Wheel of Life. The talk was to kick off their spa weekend. Naturally,
I took my own advice about balance and went down for a swim, sauna and
Jacuzzi. For quite a while, I was the only person there. I sat alone
in the Jacuzzi and watched the first snow flakes descend upon the heated
outdoor pool, giving the impression of dry ice steam. By the time I
left to go to my room, the lawn, trees and mountainsides were covered.
The next morning at breakfast we were surrounded by a 4-inch snowy vista,
the first snow of the year. The air was very frosty and the valets were
not only fetching cars, but also clearing each one of snow, which they
did with much good cheer. As we drove away down that beautiful drive,
I reflected upon how fortunate I am to do such rewarding and enjoyable
the Topic of Leadership
several occasions recently, clients have asked me to present short speeches
about leadership or leadership theories. One reality of speaking is that
a short speech usually requires more work because there is the challenge
of shrinking the time but keeping the content rich. Every word counts.
The process of personal leadership development is my field, and I am fascinated
by the study of whole systems and complexity science. Taking from both,
the following are what I believe to be core leadership realities. These
core realities can apply to us personally as well as professionally. After
all, we are the leaders of our lives.
Realities about Leadership
- Who you are is
how you lead.
- You are not
- There are no
- All organizations
are complex adaptive systems.
- Chaos and change
are the order of the day.
- Changing the
structure does not change people.
- People in relationship
to other people change the structure.
are is how you lead
you know your values and live according to them you are congruent. Your
leadership actions flow from a central core of congruence and your actions
are based upon principles. You are authentic, not playing a role. Rudolph
Giuliani exemplifies this congruence. Acting upon his values and beliefs
over the years did not always endear him to everyone. But during the
911 crisis it was his being authentic by acting congruent that revealed
his transformational leadership qualities. Here is a representative
list of the traits of transformational leaders.
Able to cultivate relationships
Have excellent communication skills
Build coalitions across lines
Engender motivation in others
Operate according to principles
Identify own values
work and life
you live and lead congruently, you are more at ease with yourself and
others. You free up energy to take action to develop the traits listed
here. Some degree of self- reflection is essential to uncover and reinforce
what your values and beliefs really are before you can live authentically.
Then the more congruent you are, the easier it is to “grow into”
these traits. You might ask, “while I see all those traits relating
to building relationships and being authentic, how do I DO charisma?
Don’t you just have it or not?” While there are people who
are naturally dynamic and charming, the truth is that often charisma
is in the eye of the beholder.
not in control
hard as we resist the idea, we really can only be in control of our
own actions and ourselves. We want to believe that there is a neat cause
and effect pattern: I do this and you will do that. Early management
thinking was based upon that premise. Cultivating the quality of detachment
can help to accept the reality that you are not in control. Detachment
isn’t a matter of not caring, but of noticing the issue, and taking
action, but not overreacting. And think about this: If you are not in
control of others, ultimately, no one is in control of you!
now know and tell us that everything in the universe is connected in
one self-organizing system. It is impossible to NOT be part of it all.
We are, in effect, each other’s environments. A small event in
one part of a system can generate an enormous effect in another part.
There is constant change in all living systems that move through growing
chaos and disorder and into new order. All of this is effected by relationships
of chemicals, gases, and electric impulses coming together and making
new substances or structures. They then fall away, dissipate, and reorder
again into other more complex systems and structures. People and organizations
are no different.
Peet, physicist and author once reflected that even physicists find
it hard to believe that no thing or being can be an outside observer,
that the minute we look at something, we influence it in some way. So
it is not difficult to see why we have trouble accepting that we are
all part of this soup of interacting energies. Ever walk into a meeting
in a great mood, but soon find yourself feeling gloomy? That is the
energy field of those already in the room influencing you.
McGregor Burns’ classic description of the transforming leader
Leadership (1978) brings the two concepts of personal development and
new science into focus. He describes the transforming leader as one
who fully engages with others in such a way that the leader and followers
raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.
within the framework of these ideas, we can’t be transformational
leaders without entering into the process in an authentic way. Then
we as well as others will be transformed. What do you think about Mr.
Giuliani? From a basic value/action congruence, he lead through the
crisis in such a manner that he also changed.
are complex adaptive systems
Wheatley in her workshops builds upon new science concepts to describe
organizations as self-organizing systems. All living systems have the
ability to organize themselves into patterns and structures without
any externally imposed plan or direction. The more encompassing term
in complexity theory today is complex adaptive systems (CAS). Wheatley
and Myron Kellner- Rogers write in a Simpler Way (1996) that when we
view our organizations as people in relationships able to create systems
and solutions, we can nourish them with information and remember that
they self- organize and they can be trusted to do so. Furthermore….
we work with organizing as process rather than organization as object,
it changes what we do. Processes do their own work. Our task is to provide
what they need to begin their work. Do people need resources, or information,
or access to new people? If they had these, could they then get on with
the work? And would we let them?” pg.38
in a CAS is often counterintuitive. The tendency when there is uncertainty
and complexity is to be directive to fix the problem. When in reality,
that is the time to encourage creative input from people close to the
work. In Edgeware, Insights from complexity science for health care
leaders, (2001) Zimmerman, Lundberg and Plsek describe this phenomenon
change are the order of the day
is just the way this complex adaptive system of a universe operates,
however hard we try for stabilization. Spencer Johnson’s (1998)
Who Moved my Cheese is a delightful book that really illustrates that
reality. We can’t control. Stability is a myth and can be dangerous
because we may miss opportunities to avoid disaster or to create better
Kevin Kelly wrote about living systems such as termite mounds, beehives
and organizations in his 1995 book Out of Control, the Rise of the Neobiological
civilization. He terms the rational logical machine type activities
as clockware and the more creative, complex messy events as swarmware,
(based on those bees) He contends we need to use both in our organizations.
We can work with others in relationship to set up systems that are tightly
organized enough for safety and production but loose enough to be flexible
to adapt to change and free enough to create change in order to grow.
the structure does not change the people
still somehow believe that if we just change the structure, move the
reporting boxes around, build a new building, give out new titles, offer
bonuses, the people will change. This comes from the old idea that we
can do to others and they will do our bidding. “If I do certain
things and act in certain ways I will change others.” Transformational
leadership is about “doing with” rather than “doing
to”. It is setting the climate for people in relationships to
create the best structure and systems. In a complex adaptive system,
the structures emerge from the process, not the other way around
relationship with others will change structures
Again, this is counterintuitive.
But our lesson from complex adaptive systems is that new structures
emerge from relationships, whether gases or chemicals, or people. When
the situation is complex and new thinking is needed, two or more people
coming together, each with an idea will create something better than
each one could alone
So, how do you Do
- Act in congruence
with your values- be authentic.
- Create opportunities
for people to form rich relationships.
- Lesson hierarchy
through free flow of information and communication.
- Accept that
we live and work in a complex adaptive system, people do self- organize.
- Celebrate people’s
self- organizing creativity.
- Be willing to
change and grow along with those whom you lead.
And, as they take
credit for all the good work, they will be heard to say, “There
goes one charismatic leader”
I welcome your ideas
and questions about this complex process called leadership. Anyone for
starting a dialogue?