Robert H. Thompson The Offsite: A Leadership Challenge Fable, Forward by Jim Kouzes. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008.
A student and now associate of Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge and several other books, Robert H. Thompson has produced another of those books about leadership in business that uses the fictional story format to make its points. This is one of two genres of business books designed to sell in the highly competitive business book field. The other uses a model or framework and tells lots of stories from experiences with leaders and in organizations to illustrate the viability and success of the approach being advocated.
Here is a story of an executive who has a transformative experience during an offsite. The offsite is led by two facilitators who seem to be dancing around a very personal relationship (the story leaves us guessing on that). One of them is introduced to a gardener at the resort hotel, Sam. He turns out to be the owner of the resort who likes to putter in zen-like fashion. He accepts the lead facilitator’s invitation to share his wisdom with the participants.
Sam begins by saying that “leadership is the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspiration. It’s about the questions—not the answers.” He then proceeds to share the five key principles from the work of Kouzes and Posner:
- Model the Way
- Inspiring a Shared Vision
- Challenging the Process
- Enable Others
- Encourage the Heart.
Among the participants is an executive who is pretty stuck; he bolts from the workshop and ends up lost in a cave where he went to escape all the pressures he was experiencing. And, in Platonic fashion, while trapped overnight, alone in the cave (he was rescued the next day) he saw the light, came to his senses and had his own transforming experience.
Well, there is more, but I don’t want to spoil the story for you. This is a fun book that workshop participants might read, rather than going to the source.
Timothy R. Clark. Epic Change: How to Lead Change in the Global Age. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007.
This is a classic example of a view of leadership as the function of the guy at the top, in this case, the change leader. But it is more than that. It is a blueprint for organization change with lots of helpful material. For example, there are the “Six Patterns of Successful Organizational Change,” (I appreciate the term “patterns,” not something like “steps” which implies that all situations are the same):
- Change requires leaders and organizations to perform more work and absorb more stress.
- There are four common stages to a successful change process.
- The discretionary efforts of people drive change from stage to stage.
- Leaders provide the energy to fuel the discretionary efforts of people.
- During the change process, organizations consume energy to perform additional work and absorb additional stress according to a predictable pattern called the power curve of change.
- There are seven primary energy sources in the change process. (p. 26)
In the case of #1, Clark states, “It is critical that leaders not only acknowledge the scarcity of resources such as time, capital, and technology but also recognize and factor in the incremental work and stress that accompany any proposed change.” Assessing the leader’s capability as well as that of other individuals, groups and other structures of the organization is essential.
The four common stages are:
Clark describes these in more detail, focusing on the amount of work required and the amount of stress to be absorbed in each. Dealing with the discretionary efforts of people is the ultimate challenge of leadership.
He defines leadership as “the business of delivering outcomes (often economic) based on human factors through social processes.” (p. 33) It is the successful navigation of these processes that is at the heart of successful change leadership.
Clark addresses the role of intellectual agility, emotional agility and physical agility in effective leadership performance. Most of the rest of the book spells out in more detail the processes and methods for navigating the four common stages, including the importance of feedback and evaluation along the way. He concludes with a plea for openness on the part of CEOs during change processes: “Openness conveys that you acknowledge the reality of your own strengths and limitations, your dependence on others, and the reality of the challenges you face. It presents your values and motives for examination.” (p. 221) Values are at the core of leadership.
Timothy H. Warnaka. Leading People the Black Belt Way:Conquering the Five Core Problems Facing Leaders Today. Cleveland, Ohio: Asogomi Publishing International, 2006.
Early in this book Warnaka states that this book is about leadership, but more importantly about leading people. He sees most leadership approaches about turning people into objects and making demands on them. “leading people…respects and honors people while seeking to co-create conditions that benefit the individual and the organization collectively.” (xxxix) He draws on Aikido as an guide to laying out principles of effective leading and incorporates an integral perspective drawn from Wilber and others.
A key is harmonious emotional engagement with harmony being defined as “ the process of being integrally in turne with those around us.” (9, emphasis in the original) Harmony requires taking into account relationship and context. He introduces the Black Belt Cycle of Leading People;
- Set Your Strategy.
- Take Your Stance.
- Take Action.
- Assess Your Strategy.
Perhaps the least obvious of these is the second, “Take Your Stance.” In the martial arts stance is core and includes balance, groundedness, centering and alignment with center. The idea is “embodied leadership, “ the power of both-and thinking, the power of process and the power of succeeding through mistakes and limitations. Thus we have an example of the ways Warnaka has skillfully woven together concepts from East and West, from Aikido and from the literature of leadership and business.
Each chapter begins with a story, the main body of the chapter, experiments to promote one’s learning, a set of points to consider, and a chapter summary, including suggestions for further reading. The Chapter on Stance begins with the following story:
In ancient times, Asian martial artists trained in phyical techniques as well
As philosophy and meditation. Once, a strucent went to demonstrate
His knowledge of the matter.
“Sensei (teacher),” the youth began. “I have meditated as you have taught me
unrealityof existence. I now know that everything is a thought.”
The master looked at the student, and then glanced out at a formation of
Rocks that were sitting in a nearby garden.
“How about those rocks?” the teacher asked. “Are they too thoughts in your mind?”
“Absolutely,” replied the student confidently, “Everything is a thought.”
“Your head,” the teacher said quietly, “must be very heavy from carrying
all of those rocks.”(p. 51)
Then, the chapter follows with a discussion of somatic intelligence in developing embodied leadership, which combines ethical principles and effective practice. He offers, “A Key to Leading People: Becoming a better leader is less about learning new tehnciques and more about reconnecting with the wisdom of your body.” (p. 56) The three disciplines of embodied leadership are (1) relaxing and opening, (2) grounding, and (3) centering, each accompanied by tips for practice. Every chapter is rich with material: quotations, presentation of concepts, and the like.
Patrick J. Warnaka, Timothy H. Warnaka, Lao Tzu. The Way of Leading People: Unlocking Your Integral Leadership Skills with the Tao Te Ching, with a Foreword by Richard Strozzi-Heckler. Cleveland, Ohio: Asogomi Publishing International, 2007.
In the Foreword, Strozzi-Heckler highlights his own relationship to the Tao Te Ching, meditation and Aikido as an example of living the Tao. One might infer that such practices are key elements in an integral life practice. He points out that this book provides an “emphasis on a compassionate, post-rational leadership that builds a dynamic relevancy for the sustainability of the planet and the human race.” (Pages in this book are not numbered). He suggests reading a verse a day. Therefore, this is not a book to sit down and read, cover to cover, since it is an integral interpretation of the Tao Te Ching, in word and in image. You are invited to experience this.
In introducing the work the authors point out the relationship between Lao and Malcolm Gladwell, Ken Wilber, Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee, among others concerning post-rational thought. “While prose is unable to fully capture these post-rational developmental levels, poetry’s strength emerges by not trying. By allowing space for metaphors to expand, poetry taps into the wisdom of post-rationality in way that allow our rational minds to glimpse the higher level of knowing.”
Patrick’s photography were the inspiration for Tim’s interpretations of the text. It is interesting that this book is not filled with flowing water and distant mountains. Rather, here are scenes we find in our everyday modern existence often divorced (or at least separated from) emersion in nature. As Patrick asserts, “As a leader, when you master the basics of leadership—the essence of which is outlined in this book—you will prevail overt leaders who constantly change their approach to fit the leadership fad du jour. He offers his pictures, together with the interpretations of Timothy, to display growth, strength, motion, harmony and success, timeless fundamentals of leadership.
Clint Fuhs, “Towards a Vision of Integral Leadership: A QuadrivialAnalysis of Eight Leadership Books,” Journal of IntegralTheory and Practice, Spring 2008.
This article represents the very first article on Integral Leadership published in AQAL, now known as the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, since the very first issue several years ago. In it, Fuhs, an Integral Institute insider, adopts a methodology devised by Barrett Brown in an earlier publication on sustainability. The methodology involves reviewing literature and categorizing each sentence into one of the four quadrants of integral mapping. He chose eight books to examine:
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap …and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
- The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge
- Leadership without Easy Answers by Ronald A. Heifetz
- Action Inquiry: The Secrets of Timely and Transforming Leadership by Bill Torbert and Associates
- Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World by Margaret J. Wheatley
- Leadership and Self Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute
- Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boayatzis, and Annie McKee
Certainly, these are eight edgy books in the field of leadership studies, most of which can be considered as part of the “popular” literature on leadership, not the “academic” studies. As such they are not representative of the literature. Hiowever, Fuhs adds a cursory sorting of another list of titles.
Each book was examined and its contents apportioned among the four quadrants, for example for Collins’ Good to Great the material sorted as follows:
- Upper Left (UL): 13 %
- Upper Right (UR): 20%
- Lower Left (LL): 17%
- Lower Right (LR): 50%
Similar patterns were found for most of the books with the notable exceptions of Covey where there was considerably more emphasis on Upper Right and Torbert and Associates and Goleman et al where there tended to be more balance among the quadrants. Another exception was the Arbinger Institute’s work, which was predominantly upper quadrants.
As leaders face the daunting task of understanding and influencing the complexity of organizational dynamics, they have a choice as to what data to take into account. Compared to exteriors, interiors are far more elusive. To’see’ them requires introspection and interaction—and they are also more difficult to change. Given that, it is not surprising that leaders and leadership literature focuses to a large degree on the exterior. Observable behaviors, and the results that they produce are simpler to interpret.
The gift of the integral approach is to encourage expansion of leadership studies into the internal quadrants. Fuhs indicates that his work will lead to a map for the integral leader.
One might raise the question for future work in building treatements of different approaches: Isn’t sorting the key concepts and ideas of these and other works more important than doing a detailed sorting of content? This is a mauch needed task still to be addressed.
> Russ Volckmann