Feature Article: Connected Leadership

Feature Articles / December 2001

It is interesting to me how things seem to come together for this publication. In the last issue I wrote about the leader as entrepreneur in relationships with stakeholders. Fundamentally this means initiating creative acts with stakeholders in the face of change and challenges. The summary article (below) presents one leader’s view of how to do this. He offers interesting propositions about community and connection with customers, employees, other stakeholders and even competitors. Consider his perspective as an affirmation of at least part of what I have been presenting here.

Add to that, Peter Koestenbaum’s alert about the importance of integrating the internal and external aspects of leadership and we have part of the formula for Integral Leadership. For Integral Leadership is about internal and external. It is about the inner world of the individual and how they manifest that world in the behaviors and relationships to others.

It is also about that collection of relationships. A constant thesis in these articles has been than the world of the heroic leader is no longer a sufficient perspective to forge the leadership that is required in the world of business today. Well, you can read back issues and put those pieces together. Here I wish to focus on a piece of this constellation: the inner world of the entrepreneur.

This inner world is not a problem to be solved. Mostly it is a puzzle tinged with paradox and mystery (see below). As a puzzle it means that we know what a lot of the pieces are. We just need to figure out how they fit together.

The pieces of this inner world are assumptions and beliefs, values, aspirations and guiding principles (a variation on the theme of the work of Mike Jay, entrepreneurial founder of B\Coach Systems). These are the sources of our motivations. They impact how leadership competencies are used: the use of time, energy, information, access to influence, special skills and knowledge and credibility. And in the case of connectedness it is how these competencies are used in relation to stakeholders – to promote connectedness.

Perhaps the most helpful perspective on connectedness would be to think about what is important to the leader in forming each relationship. Priorities and values will foster various approaches and strategies.

Connectedness for leaders is often about forming networks of relationships. The assumptions, values etc. of the leader generate motivations for each connection. If the motivation is to manipulate, this will generate a set of openings and responses as an entrepreneur. If the motive is to form a community a la Larry Weber (see Summary below) another set will be created.

The beliefs and assumptions about connectedness are at the heart of leadership theory. Sometimes the requirements for connectedness may be situational. They are always contextual–the difference being that contextual is about business objectives and a whole set of stakeholder relationships, not just the relationship between a manager and a person being managed.

That we cannot have leaders without followers has been a mainstream notion of leadership. The shift that more and more are recognizing is that we cannot have leaders without effective relationships related to specific contexts. Connectedness is essential to these relationships and provides a foundation for the creative and innovative acts that are both individual and collective.

> Russ Volckmann