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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Leadership 10

A comment from last week's blog “Leadership 9” from Pixie Stevenson,
“Great post, Paul! My take on it is that leadership (life) is organic which to me is not mechanistic. Is that what you're saying?”
Pixie; thanks for your comment!

My answer is: Sorta. Kinda. Maybe. Perhaps. :) I'm not sure what you mean by "leadership (life)".

Certainly life itself is organic. Leadership may or may not be.

The FORMAL LEADER strives be in control and operate in a systematic way: inputs transformed into outputs by procedural activities. This person is leading by virtue of their appointment – by themselves, or conferred – to a particular position in the chain of command. In their thinking and behaviour they strive to fulfill a notion of the leader who is instrumental for success, who can't be absent, who should not make mistakes, who can't be surprised, who can't be vulnerable, without their part of the world – their business, their department, their family – falling apart.
Because they view their part of the universe as a system, then certain inputs – events, transactions, people types, etc. - can be dealt with by the appropriate activity. These inputs become “problems” that can be “solved” by the smart leadership action. In this manner the FORMAL LEADER can regain control of the system, after any disturbance, by the right move, the correct application of expertise, charisma, power, intimidation...

AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP as described by Harrison Owen, and fostered by the Shambhala Institute, and taught by the McCarthy teamwork BootCamp is not procedural, nor founded in organizational authority, but emergent and so spontaneous.
Realizing that life – and organizations – are organic, with spontaneous connections and interplay, with surprises, apparent chaos, etc. working, perhaps invisibly, with, around, underneath the formally defined structure, provides a different perspective. This perspective doesn't have to completely replace the systemic view, in my opinion, but does need to become our default, or instinctive view, in spite of all prior organizational training and conditioning.

Harrison Owen describes beautifully the confusion and consternation possible among those brought up in the framework of the Whole System Hoax when confronted with Open Space Technology (OST) leading to authentic leadership. The freewheeling, self organizing that occurs in OST just goes completely against the grain for us nurtured in command and control, firm directive behaviour, keeping the ducks in a row even when doing something as gooey as “facilitating”.

In our systematic world we may stretch our minds and take the risk of assembling a team – carefully picked, mind you – to allow some brainstorming – bounded, of course – toward a solution - already identified by the boss. But, dang, even then it could get tricky and get out of control, er... out of hand, I mean... unproductive! Someone may start going off on a tangent to our well prepared session. And what if the boss – the FORMAL LEADER – doesn't like the results? That team is now history, and our facilitator's certificate is in the dumpster.

But in an OST environment there are just four nonsensical principles and one law – and then it's everyone for themselves. Authentic leadership simply emerges. YIKES!

Of course, just like so many great ideas and experiences, if you only read about them it doesn't seem reasonable that some useful outcome can result. OST, BootCamp, etc. sound good, make interesting reading, appeal to our intellect. Aircraft and bumblebees are fascinating concepts, but they won't really fly.

But as my wise friend and associate George Abbot during my Xerox life shared with me: A mind is like a parachute – it works best when it's open.
Or even: don't knock it 'till you've tried it.

If, after 20 years of OST, 15 years of Stuart Kauffman's insight into self-organizing systems, as many years of the Core Protocols developed in teamwork BootCamps,... if we haven't yet heard of, learned about, digested, implemented, practiced Authentic Leadership, what will it take to do so?

1 comment:

Pixie Stevenson said...

Are you saying you wish the paradigm of formal leadership would change to authentic leadership?

What I meant in my last comment is that leadership is also a part of the organic, evolutionary, and every expanding process of life.

Have there been cycles in leadership? Is the current formal leaderhip a relic from the past that is now suffering the labor pains and transition of birth into authentic leadership? Are you midwifing a new era of leaders?