I’m a dancer. When I studied the Argentine Tango there was a foundational rule that I believe is true for all leaders: The leader opens the door for the follower to pass through, and the leader then follows. If anyone notices the leader, he’s not doing his job. The goal is to showcase the follower.
Much of what is written about leadership falls into the category I call ‘trait-centered leadership’: someone deemed ‘at the top’ who uses his/her personality, influence, and charisma to inspire and give followers – possibly not ready for change – a convincing reason to follow an agenda set by the leader or the leader’s boss. Sounds to me like a mixture of Jack Welch, Moses, and Justin Bieber.
What if the leader’s goal overrides the mental models, beliefs or historic experiences of the followers, or the change is pushed against the follower’s values, and resistance ensues? What if the leader uses his/her personality as the reason a follower should change? Or has a great message and incongruent skills? Or charisma and no integrity? Adolf Hitler, after all, was the most charismatic leader in modern history.
IF YOU CAN’T FOLLOW, YOU CAN’T LEAD
Whether it’s for a group that needs to perform a new task, or someone seeking heightened outcomes, the role of leadership is to
- Facilitate congruent change and choice,
- in accordance with the values, skills, and ability of the follower,
- enabling them to shift their own unique (unconscious) patterns,
- to discover and attain new behaviors congruently and without resistance,
- within the parameters of the required change.
It demands humility and authenticity. It’s other-centered and devoid of ego, similar to a simple flashlight that merely lights the existent path, enabling followers to discover their own excellence within the context of the change sought. It’s an inside job.
Being inspirational, or a good influencer with presence and empathy, merely enlists those whose beliefs and unconscious mental models are already predisposed to the change, and omits, or gets resistance from, those who should be part of the change but whose mental models don’t align.
This form of leadership has pluses and minuses.
- Minuses: the final outcome may look different than originally envisaged because the followers set the route according to their values and mental models.
- Pluses: everyone will be enthusiastically, creatively involved in designing what will show up as their own mission, with a far superior proficiency. It will more than meet the vision of the leaders (although it might look different), and the followers will own it with no resistance.
Do you want to lead through influence, presence, charisma, or rationality? Or facilitate the unique path to congruent change? Do you want people to see you as a guide? Or teach them how to congruently move beyond their status quo and discover their own route to excellence – with you as a GPS system? Do you want to lead? Or enable real change? They are opposite constructs.
POWER VS. FORCE
Here are some differences in beliefs between trait-centered leadership and more facilitative leadership:
Trait-centered: Top down; behavior change and goal-driven; dependent on power, charisma, and persuasion skills of a leader and may not be congruent with foundational values of followers.
Facilitation-centered: Inclusive (everyone buys-in and agrees to goals, direction, change); core belief-change and excellence-driven; dependent on facilitating route between current state and excellence, leading to congruent systemic buy-in and adoption of new behaviors.
Real change happens at the belief level. Attempting to change behaviors without helping people change their beliefs first meets with resistance: the proposed change pushes against the status quo regardless of the efficacy of the change.
New skills are necessary for facilitation-centered leadership:
- Listen for systems.This enables leaders to hear the elements that created and maintain the status quo and would need to transform from the inside before any lasting change occurs. Typical listening is biased and restricts possibility.
2. Facilitative Questions. Conventional questions are biased by the beliefs and needs of the Questioner, and restrict answers and possibility. Facilitative Questions enlist the unconscious systems and show them how to adopt change congruently.
3. Code the route to systemic change. When asking folks to buy-in, build consensus, and collaborate, they don’t know how to make the necessary changes without facing internal resistance, regardless of the efficacy of the requested changes. By helping people move from their conscious to their unconscious back to their conscious, and facilitating buy-in down the line, it’s very possible to avoid resistance.
If you seek to enable congruent change that captures the passion and creativity of followers, avoids resistance, and enables buy-in, open the door and follow your followers.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard? She has developed facilitation material for sales/change management, coaching, and listening. To learn more about her sales, decision making, and change management material, go to www.sharondrewmorgen.com. To learn more about her work on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, go to www.didihearyou.com. Contact Sharon Drew for training, keynotes, or online programs at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sharon Drew is currently designing programs for coaches to Find and Keep the Ideal Client, and Lead Facilitation for Lead Generationby
With 300+ likes and 1K shares, the strategy article 8 things every leader should know about strategy somehow struck a nerve. But as many readers pointed out correctly, it’s one thing to know what strategy is all about, but it’s another to get out there and come up with one.
As you will probably agree, there is no magic formula for crafting the perfect strategy. If there was, the business world would look a lot different. But that does not mean there aren’t a few shortcuts that you can take. Here are 8 strategy questions to inspire your strategic thinking.
1. Should I strengthen my current strategy? And if yes, how?
Are you doing ok today? If yes, ask yourself how you can strengthen your existing strategy. Look for ways to improve what you do well already. Think about introducing new technology, features, products or services that leverage other areas in the value chain and fit with the current strategy. In short, build on what you already have.
2. How can I copy with pride?
Copying what others in your industry in your main markets are doing isn’t smart. You will start competing on the same axes and this competition will lead to price erosion. But copying can still pay off big time. The world is a big place and many great companies only operate locally. But in this information era, it’s easy to find them, learn from their success and see if some of their ingredients for success can be copied.
By spending only one evening on the internet, 56 out of the 80 companies that participated in my research found at least one great example in another geographical area that fuelled their strategic-thinking process
3. How can I go beyond product innovation?
Don’t focus only on the product or service – a risk, especially in an engineering environment. There are more things to a value chain then the product itself. The key to a sustainable competitive advantage is that ALL activities are tailored to the value proposition.
4. How can I recapture company heritage?
If your company has been around for some time, it follows that it has been doing something well for at least a certain time period. Finding out what that uniqueness is/was and reapplying it to boost your strategy is an interesting way of fuelling your reflection process about strategy. This doesn’t mean that you have to re-do it in the same way, but an adapted version might be just what you need.
5. How can I take advantage of a crisis?
Take a look at these figures from an article in the Harvard Management Update(Baveja, Ellis, Rigby, March 2008). A study of more than 700 companies over a six-year period found that “Twice as many companies made the leap from laggards to leaders during the last recession (90-91) as during surrounding periods of economic calm”. And most of these changes lasted long after the recession was over − a clear indication that what you do during the crisis determines your position when it’s over. Put differently, what you do during a crisis determines your strategic position once it’s over. So when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And win in the end.
So keep going, even when it’s tough out there.
6. How can I build an execution edge
Strategy Execution provides a competitive edge. A strategy needs to reinvent itself every five to seven years. Execution capabilities last much longer. So it pays off to invest in strategy execution excellence.
7. How can I innovate my business model?
A business model is a fancy word for the combination of choices you have made in your activities – your value chain – to bring your value proposition to life. The concept has been around for a long time, but for some reason, everyone apart from strategy consultants have forgotten about it. A recent book by Alexander Osterwalder in which he puts thinking about business models in an easy-to-use format has been a big hit. If you want to get going, identify activities and ask yourself some questions for each block.
8. How can I create Shared Value?
Sustainability is a hot topic today and I believe it is more than a fad. Shared Value is a new concept that helps strategists to incorporate social value into the strategic positioning of an organisation. And it goes far beyond philanthropy.
Michael Porter’s definition of Shared Value is: “You create shared value by enhancing the competitive position of a company while at the same time advancing the society in which it operates.”
The words ‘at the same time’ are very important. When people look at the relationship between a company and society, they tend to think it’s a zero-sum game, a game with only one winner. The strategy concept of Shared Value looks at the positive sum. It means that certain choices will strengthen the strategic position of the organisation and at the same time offer benefits for society.
It’s your challenge as a strategist to find that sweet spot.
There’s an active discussion on LinkedIn Pulse. You can join it hereby