THE NEXUS OF LEADERSHIP
Three fundamental principles guide our work:
I. We view organizations as emergent, dynamic systems.
Every successful organization has its own identity; its own history, culture and values, which determine a range of opportunities, achievable objectives, and aspirational goals. Our first task is to disclose that evolving history through discussion and reflection, with the aim of constructing the most compelling narrative linking the organization's past and present accomplishments to future aspirations.
Leadership learns to read and understand its organization in terms of its past history, present purposes, systemic character and constraints. This allows for development that is tailored to the organization and specifically designed to build on its unique character. Such work provides the leadership with a coherent narrative that maps the organization, provides an identity and offers a reference standard for decision-making at all levels. In this process, we identify the organization's optimal functions and most injurious dysfunctions. Our aim is to grow the organization toward its healthiest and most effective functioning.
All organizations live in cycles. In times of transition and leadership change, a variety of organizational dysfunctions emerge. Most of these are experienced as destructive conflict. All of them need to be understood as representing the growing edge of the organization. In the effective management of these conflicts organizations develop the skills and resources they need to take the next step in their growth. Only a third party can create the neutral holding environment and hold all parties accountable in working through the conflicts.
II. We understand that effective leadership is a distributed resource exercised through a network of partnerships.
The initial partnership is between the CEO and us. We are consultants to the leader's process and creative endeavors. But our goal is to build leadership teams across the organization, not heroic leaders who stand apart. We are partners in the organization's emergent design, neither outside catalysts for change nor creators of one-size-fits-all templates.
All managers must also be leaders. And as leaders they must work together with other managers as co-leaders in the community they serve. Executives must develop a network of effective partnerships to hold this co-leadership throughout the organization. This most effectively assures that needs get identified, communicated and met. It also creates the most flexible, responsive, resilient and successful organizations.
An organization’s strength may lie in its diversity. This only happens when the different voices can be understood on their own terms and translated to those who do not understand those terms. In just the way different departments need to value and understand the contribution of other departments, different cultures need to appreciate each other’s value. The way to that appreciation is a process of often difficult, structured conversations. It is only through such a process that real understanding and respect can be achieved and working alliances can replace internal politics.
III. We develop the capacity for strategic intuition in the organization’s leaders.
Strategic intuition is the capacity in leaders that underlies and steers strategic planning. Strategic intuition is developed through disciplines of ongoing inquiry and reflection: Openness to all voices in the organization, including the most marginal; clarity about tasks and roles; recognizing the interdependence of functions. This intuition develops over time, attends to complex and ever changing "force-fields" inside and outside the organization. Organizational failures are as meaningful as successes, and it is the leaders' task to ensure that the organization learns from both. In this way, strategic adaptation goes hand in hand with strategic planning, meetings become meaningful, and transactions become transformations.
The skills and thinking needed to begin new things are very different than those that keep things going. The need for wide-open creative thinking can run counter to the structured disciplines necessary to make them real. Entrepreneurship with a new organization or within an existing one requires leaders to read the range of possibilities, to empower the staff, to identify and take the necessary risks, to run useful experiments and develop the roles and structures that will carry the new work forward. Some leaders have a natural aptitude for this, but most need help in thinking through these processes and gaining the collaborations needed to be successful.