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Holistic Leadership

Leadership Workplace Collaboration/Teamwork 

Posted on August 3, 2010 by Blake Leath

Several days ago while differentiating Good vs. Poor Leaders, I committed to write a bit more about leadership. 

In keeping that commitment, allow me to share the following model which has proven helpful for several groups over the years.



Beyond 'arguably,' there are certainly a number of key leadership competencies unaccounted for here (like systems thinking and change), but we can dive into those another time.

What the model here does do, and simply, is capture 2 key axes, 4 diverse endpoints...and all this while reminding the leader the importance of stability.

Let's start with the 2 axes, Results and Relationships. 

Notionally, the premise of Results and Relationships (like Yin and Yang) alerts leaders to mind these two very unique yet interrelated dimensions. 

On the one hand, great leaders have got to be adequate (or, more ideally, exceptional) relationship-builders.  For those leaders who like to think programmatically, linearly or via 'building blocks,' understanding that he or she can build relationships in two ways often proves constructive. 

For example, on the one hand, a leader can build and improve relationships by focusing on how he or she Collaborates with others.  Collaborate is a straightforward word -- it means to "co-labor" or "work together."  Two practical ways to think about this include: (1)People do not resist their own ideas and (2)People like to see their photo...or 'DNA' in the scrapbook.  In short, to be a better leader, co-labor with others in ways that allow them to contribute and see their contributions.  It's as simple as that, and yet a huge portion of the 'leadership population' does not operate this way.  Instead, they place themselves at the center of everything, marginalizing those around them as grunts and missing tremendous opportunities to facilitate dialogue, contribution, better solutions and support.

A second way for a leader to build and improve relationships is through Communication.  Here's a neat way to think about communication: (1)Awareness occurs through the senses, (2)Understanding occurs in the mind, (3)Belief occurs in the heart and (4)Behavior occurs through the hands.  Pragmatically, this means more than time permits us to unpack today...but imagine a company that seeks to 'communicate' through posters in the cafeteria, name badges, mouse pads or screen savers.  Will people be 'aware' of the company's direction?  Perhaps.  But will they integratively understand, believe and demonstrate that direction daily?  It's doubtful.  To improve the odds, the organization should learn to communicate in ways that involve people and breathe life into the ideologies by animating and modeling beliefs and behaviors.  The Confucius maxim, "I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand" holds water.

But communication is about a lot more than 'spewing or sensing.'  I believe that, as is the case our entire lives, we learn more by doing than seeing or hearing.  Said more plainly, if you want to communicate effectively, involve another person in the decision-making or delegation of a task.  (Like mathematics, you don't really know whether I understand the problem's nuances until I show my work.)  And while I have you here, let me add one more morsel: Deciding and Delegating are two of our strongest methodologies for Developing people.  Lots of leaders 'miss' this, making too many decisions themselves or seeing delegation as a way to clear their plate.  This is a huge mistake.  Instead, approach each task and ask yourself, "How can this serve as a developmental opportunity for someone else, too?"  Then, draw others into the decision-making process or delegation loop purposefully.  (The sign of a great leader is increasing irrelevance.  The sign of a poor leader is unending dependence.  Great parents teach this, starting with removing the training wheels.) 

Continuing now, any leader must accomplish results.  I have often viewed results as occurring across two common categories of activities, distinguishable along a scale of management and leadership.  The teeter-totter image below should prove a helpful tool for your further consideration of this idea. 



At the core of the first model, though, are values & ethics.  These alone are an entire field of inquiry that Aristotle himself didn't finish pondering.  One's own values and ethics warrant a lifetime of exploration and commitment.  They unquestionably serve as our compass' True North position, without which we wander, wonder and succumb to all manner of mirages and temptations.

I know it's not true in the purest sense, but I have always been predisposed to believe that if it's easy or convenient, it's probably wrong.  Those things in life which prove virtuous or right generally seem to be more difficult or inconvenient.  Diet, exercise, discipline, meaningful communication, giving others the benefit of the doubt, turning the other cheek, being selfless, meeting others' expectations, checking one's work, proofreading, going slowly now to go faster later, saving money, finishing one's homework proactively rather than procrastinating, loving thine enemy, living a whole and undivided life (walking the talk), dying unto oneself, checking one's ego at the door, truly listening (vs. reloading), being creative rather than a revisionist....  These are difficult things, and right.

In summary then, if you aspire to be a better leader, don't forget these 'minima:' Create better relationships through more purposeful collaboration and communication.  Achieve results through a proper mixture of management and leadership.  And all the while, drop your anchor deep into a stable, unchanging bedrock of consistent values and ethics.

Do these and you'll be more consciously-competent than half the leaders on the field.