Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan, The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the Future of Your Organization and Your Life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009.
Drawing on “an interdisciplinary slew of disciplines as disparate as brain science, linguistics, organizational theory, and complex adaptive systems with a few fundamental laws of human and organizational behavior” (Warren Bennis in the Editor’s note), these authors are reaching for the kinds of integrative approaches to leadership we seek. The authors were brought together by the Barbados Group (read Werner Erhard—been a while since you have seen that name in print?). Right. This work is at least in part based on Landmark Education and its earlier manifestation—EST.
Their approach builds on the observation that many change efforts—personal and organizational—fail. They recommend shifting from change management to rewriting the future, “…rewriting what they know will happen.” By applying three laws, transformation occurs. The laws or performance are:
- How people perform correlates to how situations occur to them.
- How a situation occurs arises in language.
- Future-based language transforms how situations occur to people.
I suggest you read the book to clarify what these laws mean an how they have been applied by individuals and groups. But applying these laws is not a simple overlay on old habits. The authors point the way toward applying these laws, these cousins of abundance thinking. Note three principles they offer about the future orientation they present:
- Futures Inspire Action.
- Futures Speak to Everyone in the Process.
- Futures Exist in the Moment of Speaking.
What really brings this book to our attention is their section of the book, Rewriting the Future of Leadership. Here are some of their prescriptions:
- Leaders have a say, and give others a say, in how situations occur.
- Leaders master the conversational environment.
- Leaders listen for the future of their organization.
They offer these questions to guide the leader:
- If I wanted to cocreate a future with others, who would I need to involve?
- How would I need to listen to them?
- Where would I have to be willing to give up controlling a direction so a new future could arise?
- In considering these questions, review the three laws and corollaries.
They move from this foundation to discussing the self-led organization. Mind you, this book is not just a list of “shoulds.” Throughout there are stories about how people have applied these ideas in creating change. This is about creating the future in organizations and of organizations. Organizations involve networks of communications and individuals throughout the organization “stepping forward.” Note this:
For an organization to deal with the pressure cooker it is in, it needs to rewrite its future by altering its network of conversations. It needs to create a compelling future for its stakeholders and align its network of conversations to fulfill that future. In the process, the organization’s Self emerges, which is the collective essence of all of the people involved in its operations, including a future that inspires them and fulfills their concerns. This is what we mean by a Self-led organization.
The final section of the book is about “Mastering the Game of Performance.” This involves moving past the persona encouraged by many leadership development programs into building upon the “real you.” And it involves developing mastery. This is accomplished by getting in touch with your ways of seeing situations and ultimately moving through to teaching others. They close with the statement: “There are no circumstances in business or in life that you can’t handle from the Three Laws.…Play the game passionately, intensely, and fearlessly. But don’t make it significant. It’s just a game.”
James P. Spillane and John B. Diamond. Distributed Leadership in Practice. New York: Colombia University, 2007.
I wanted to take a look at this book because it seems to me that one of the implications of taking an integral perspective on leadership under the conditions of complexity in the world naturally leads to the conclusion that leadership is inherently distributed. Occasionally there is the heroic leader in the “moment.” And there are individuals who more frequently move into—and out of—leader roles. But here I am perpetuating confusion in the use of terms related to leadership. What if we examine the notion of distributed leadership while using the following distinctions which I make in a forthcoming book edited by Richard Couto:
- Leader— a role in a system, that is, a set of expectations held by members of a society, community or organizations about desired and appropriate behaviors and qualities of individuals who temporarily occupy the role. For example, members of an organization would hold that leaders are knowledgeable or have a clear understanding of a current situation. As Joseph Rost (1992) noted, no one is in a leader role 24/7.
- Leading—the activities of individuals temporarily occupying the role of leader. Here is where much of the popular leadership literature tends to focus. When researchers and theorists talk about what a leader does it is a description of an individual in the role of leader and the behaviors of that individual that relate to being a leader. For example, the suggestion that leaders articulate and hold a vision is an indication of a behavior. So is being authentic or being a servant. Underlying these are the perspectives and intentions that individuals bring. If it seems that there is a close relationship between the role and the behaviors that is the case since we are more likely to identify individuals as having filled the role if they exhibit the corresponding behaviors.
- Leadership—(and here is where a more integrative view emerges) involves the role (leader), the behaviors and worldviews—including beliefs, intentions and the like—(leading) and the context. But it is a context that goes beyond our notions of situation. It is a context that includes culture, as well as systems, processes, technologies and so on.
And what do we find when we look at the material in Spillane and Diamond’s (and their contributors) focus on leadership in education?
The editors do distinguish between management and leadership. Management is essentially a maintenance function while
Leadership refers to activities tied to the core work of the organization that is designed by organizational members to influence the motivation, knowledge, affect, or practices of other organizational members or that are understood by organizational members as intended to influence their motivation, knowledge, affect, or practices.
Thus, by linking leadership so closely to the internal dynamics of an organization, the potential for an integral perspective is already being limited. However, they do then talk about the practice of leadership, that is, leading. This suggests some compatibility with the distinctions I make above. Their notion of a distributed perspective is as an analytic tool, a framework, for research on leadership…and management. Leading in schools involves “multiple individuals” who occupy either formal or informal roles. The practice of leading is “a product of the interactions of school leaders, followers, and aspects of their situation. Here we have the makings of a more integral perspective that suffers from the lack of a coherent metatheory of leadership, particularly on that draws on the advantages of an integral framework.
The chapters included in this book are pretty much right quadrant focused. That is, they focus on what can be observed about individuals and contexts. Amy Coldron highlights the role of organizational routines that calls attention to the relationship between these and leadership. Richard Halverson points to the use of artifacts by leaders to build a strong sense of professional community in a school. Additional case studies are provided by John Diamond, Tim Hallett, Jennifer Sherer and Patricia Burch. Each point to an occurrence of distributed leadership.
Some themes that emerge from this research are:
- The importance of clarity about language and constructs for both researchers and practitioners; (AMEN!)
- The value of the use of distributed leadership as a conceptual lens; and
- Dispelling myths about distributed leadership:
- The distributed perspective is blueprint for leadership and management; there is no five step process that fits all contexts.
- The distributed perspective negates to role of principals; formal leaders continue to loom large.
- From a distributed perspective, everyone is a leader; while there is the potential, not everyone steps into the role of leader.
- Distributed leadership is only about collaborative situations; it is relevant, even for situations involving work that is different or even opposing within the system.
Edgar H. Schein. Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2009.
Another book from my favorite publisher.
Since Adolf Guggenbuhl-Craig published his classic in archetypal psychology, Power in the Helping Professions, I have been very sensitive to wide variety of uses of power, including influence, on the part of teachers, consultants and coaches, roles that I have occupied throughout my professional life. And now, Edgar Schein, long time mentor to those interested in such things and who has influenced so many with his work on organizational culture and organizational development, is holding forth on the subject of helping.
Helping is a relationship that is endemic to being human. In families, among friends and fellow tribe members, in groups and organizations and communities, helping is a frequent and ongoing occurrence. Schein seeks to provide a general theory of helping that begins with the assumption that “all human relationships are about status positioning and…’ situational properieties.’” Schein explores these relationships and the role of trust.
Building on an exploration of the multiple forms and meaning of help, Schein turns his attention to the nature of relationships as economics and theater. They involve reciprocity, scripted roles and our participation usually designed to maintain social order in accordance with culturally define social rules. We build these relationships by playing these roles in building trust. When our efforts fail, we withdraw or distance ourselves from the other. And we build bonds with those where trust grows.
Helping relationship are ambiguous and out of balance. Wee experience being “one down” or “one up.” There are traps that we fall into. Clients, for example, may encounter:
- Initial mistrust.
- Relief in finding someone who may help;
- Using the helping occurrence to gain attention, reassurance and/or validation;
- Seeking ways to make build ways of discounting the helper through resentment and defensiveness;
- Stereotyping, unrealistic expectations, and transference.
The helper has even more:
- Dispensing wisdom prematurely.
- Meeting defensiveness with more pressure.
- Accepting the problem prematurely and over-reacting to the dependence.
- Giving support and reassurance.
- Resisting taking on the helper role (emotional distance).
- Stereotyping, prior expectations counter transference and projections.
As a professional helper, I have encountered all of these at various times.
The remainder of the book is about helping and has many useful tips. Schein focuses on three helping roles: expert, healer and process consultant. Noting that the very first book I read by Schein was titled Process Consultation, it is not surprising that his focus is on the latter as the initial role of the helper. From there it may be useful (helpful) to continue that role or for the person seeking help to choose someone in another role. He draws on this discussion to offer a central proposition of helping:
Any helping situation must begin with the helper adopting the process consultant role in order to do the following:
- Remove the ignorance inherent in the situation
- Lessen the initial status differential
- Identify what further role may be most suitable to the problem identified [.]
He closes with a discussion of the helping process and approaches, including a set of principles and tips that can serve us all in our relationships, particularly when we move to a helper role.
Mary Uhl-Bien and Russ Marion, eds. Complexity Leadership—Part 1: Conceptual Foundations. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, Inc.
One of the many potential areas in the development of more integral perspectives on leading, the leader role and leadership in engaging with the many challenges we face as individuals, families, communities, nations and the world and that I hope will receive a lot more attention is the relationship between integral perspectives and complexity theory. Like integral, complexity theory can be applied on multiple levels as science and as metaphor. Married with quantum physics it can help us comprehend both the very small and the very large, including to functions and dynamics of interiors. Can I say this with certainty? Probably not. But I can say that there is a growing body of literature that attempts to do this in integral, as well as complexity theory.
This 400+ page publication is an important contribution to this evolution. Beginning with the observation, “…for organizations wanting or needing to change, leaders may be able to play a role in creating the conditions that foster mechanisms for adaptive organizational transformation.” Adaptation is our evolutionary response to the changing conditions in our lives and systems.
As Russ Marion’s chapter on complexity theory and leadership points out, there is much about the application of this approach that is just plain counter-intuitive—predictably so, since there is so much in the seeming contradictions between the quantum and the Cartesian worlds that are counter-intuitive. Note thes observations about the implications of complexity theory:
- “…a system of interacting agents does not require coordination or input from sources outside that system in order to create ordered behavior and structure.” Contrast this with a basic assumption of the notion of leadership: in order to accomplish change, systems need leaders.
- “…order can be created by dissipating—(getting rid of) energy: by being entropic.” This is the result of nonlinear, emergent change or phase transition.
- “…the future is ultimately unknowable and…our sophisticated predictive equations may not be as useful as we think they are.” This opening to randomness is also the opening of the inclusion of the unobserved dynamics of human systems that include variations in intentions and cultures.
Marion explores three key characteristics of complex systems: “they involve interacting units, they are dynamic (complexity is the study of changing behaviors), and they are adaptive.” His further discussion of complexity theory leads to a brief look at complexity leadership. Those in leader roles are enablers. “They create the structures, rules, interactions, interdependencies, tension, and culture in which complex mechanisms can thrive and unanticipated outcomes can occur—and, they create mechanisms that week out poorly adaptive outcomes.” Furthermore, they “foster conditions that allow the system to respond effectively and rapidly to catastrophic or opportunistic changes.” A complexity theory approach ”recognizes the importance of many critical minds struggling autonomously but interdependently over problems that a system faces.”
A second chapter by Jeffrey Goldstein who, with Jim Hazy, are editors of ECO, the journal focused on complexity theory and organizations, develops a more comprehensive review of complexity theory. Additional chapters focus on applications of this approach to examining transactional and transformational leadership, leadership in networks, and the implications of a shift from the industrial to the knowledge eras. Donde Plowman and Dennis Cuchon offer a chapter on dispelling myths about leadership. Here are some of the alternatives to prevailing myths:
- “Leaders provide linkages to emergent structures by enhancing connections among organizational members.”
- “Leaders try to make sense of patterns in small changes.”
- “Leaders are destabilizers who encourage disequilibrium and disrupt existing patterns of behavior.”
- “Leaders encourage processes that enable emergent order.”
Ellen Van Velsor offers a complexity perspective on Leadership Development. This chapter is an affirmation of the important idea that organizations need to shift from the exclusive focus on individuals in development to a broader framework. She supports Bill Drath, John O’Toole, David Day and others in arguing that ”leadership capacity might include enhancing interactive dynamics within organizations and developing organizational cultures and systems that recognize these dynamics as a key source of leadership.” This is such an important step forward because it offers the opportunity to address the reason that so much has been squandered on an exclusively individual orientation to leadership development. Her suggestions include the development of a practice field for connection and interaction, senior executives play the role of sponsors who encourage interaction and support unpredictable outcomes, and an action-reflection process for promoting learning.
Jim Hazy closes the book with two chapters: “Leadership or Luck?” and “Patterns of Leadership.” The former is a case study of Intel during the 1970s and 1980s. He affirms the importance of creating leadership mechanisms rather than relying on heroic leadership by enhancing information dynamics in the organization, thus building on the early work of Ralph Stacy. He suggests convergent leadership that uses excess profit to provide resources for development. Generative leadership mechanisms are essential for innovation. Use of self-funding projects to introduce “control” and provide resources that match innovation with market opportunities act as support for leadership. Finally, a key function of leadership is maintenance and revision of “identity” for guiding attention and energy flow. His conclusion is that success at Intel was a product of both leadership and luck.
In his closing chapter, Hazy offers another case study in which he discusses leadership signaling in complex systems: “signaling networks provide information about the system and its state within the environment. The notion of “shared leadership” is an example of the signaling process. These signals organize complex adaptive systems. Once again, he uses his notions of generative leadership that increases the variety of alternatives, with unifying leadership that balances tensions to sustain unity of the system, and with convergent leadership that promotes progress toward an effective configuration. All are important to the evolution of the system.
Since this is Part 1, we can assume that there will be more to follow. Perhaps, then, we can forgive the absence of a closing chapter that summarizes the implications of the contributions in this volume. This is a work in progress.
Lowell Bryan and Diana Farrell. “Leading Through Uncertainty,” The McKinsey Quarterly, December 2008.
This online publication is a rich resource for those interested in leadership. Generally speaking, material found here is couched in the patois of the international business culture. You are not going to find integral perspectives here…yet, despite the fact that McKinsey is using integral and developmental perspectives in some of its work. This article is no exception. Yet, here we find the same kinds of aspirations that come from such perspectives. Companies need to be flexible, aware, and resilient to survive and thrive in the face of the global economic meltdown.
The authors open with,
The future of capitalism is here, and it’s not what any of us expected. With breathtaking speed, in the autumn of 2008 the credit markets ceased functioning normally, governments around the world began nationalizing financial systems and considering bailouts of other troubled industries, and major independent US investment banks disappeared or became bank holding companies. Meanwhile, currency values, as well as oil and other commodity prices, lurched wildly, while housing prices in Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, and elsewhere continued to slide.
No surprise. We are in deep trouble. Or, alternatively, the conditions are ripening for the emergence of a new way of being and doing. In any case, these authors seek business leaders as having central roles in addressing the challenges we face. Shifts are occurring in the roles of governments, credit it likely to be difficult to come by for years, there will be less tolerance of risk and the need for restructuring companies and industries.
There is a lot about the future we don’t know. “The winners will be companies that make thoughtful choices—despite the complexity, confusion, and uncertainty—by assessing alternative scenarios honestly, considering their implications, and preparing accordingly.”
And here is the nugget I found valuable. Our evolution is, in part, about our ability to prepare for what is not known. The use of scenario development processes is key to enhancing this ability.
They offer four scenarios:
- The global credit system is revised. They call this the optimistic scenario.
- The interventions of governments work and support the recovery with a corresponding rebound in confidence.
- Variable regeneration around the world leads to stagnation of trade as a result of over-regulation by governments.
- Trade and capital flows continue to decline and the crisis deepens for years to come.
- They conclude:
- “As customer preferences change, competitors falter, opportunities to gain distressed assets emerge, and governments shift from crisis control to economic stimulus, the next year or two will probably produce new laggards, leaders, and industry dynamics. The future will belong to companies whose senior executives remain calm, carefully assess their options, and nurture the flexibility, awareness, and resiliency needed to deal with whatever the world throws at them.”