“Leadership Effectiveness” Webinar – Q&A Follow-up

Our recent webinar “Leadership Effectiveness: Guiding the Way to Business Agility” – the second installation in our Business Agility Webinar Series – helped to surface important and relevant questions about leadership and management in an Agile organization. The co-presenters, Katrina Ferguson and George Schlitz, deftly answered the questions that time allowed, while responding to the deeper ethos of the participant’s curiosity and concern. Here we answer a few of the questions we didn’t have an opportunity to address and share more learning resources for help in the movement to transform leadership to suit the uncertainty and complexity of today’s business.


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First, let’s look at an update of what we now call “A Guide to Agile Leadership,” which features nine domains along two axes: Drivers of Agile leadership and Horizons of Agile leadership.

1. Looking at the Guide above, Scott Roberge asked, “‘Power’ feels a bit command and control-ish – can you expand on how the term Power fits in this model and expectations of leadership with respect to “Power”?

In our current climate, we have an aversion to talking about power, but the reality is that power is present in leadership whether we want to acknowledge it or not. In this context, power is basically getting people what you want them to do – that feels icky. But if we take away the pejorative aspect of this and look at it through a neutral lens, power is how we get things done in the world. French and Raven’s work on power back in the 50s identified six types of power, and two of them are useful in business and leadership: expert and referent. Expert power is based on subject matter expertise, knowledge or skills. This is where credentials, awards, experience and know-how play a role. Referent power comes from one person liking and respecting another, and identifying with her in some way. To having lasting power, it needs to be combined with integrity and depth of character. When it is combined with expert power, it can help you to be very successful. The other 4 forms of power which I didn’t mention, and might be useful, are Legitimate, Reward, Coercive, and Informational. “Power exists whether we want it to or not, and pretending it’s not there is as dangerous as using the less desirable forms of power.”

2. Eric Miller asked, “The skills and tools to do this work are quite specialised. Does SolutionsIQ have a leadership development ‘playbook’ or set of recommended methods?”

It’s important to note that we are proposing that effective Agile leadership is not just about tools and methods – it is significantly about personal development. While our Agile leadership development program does incorporate the use of many methods – from systems thinking, complexity science, organizational development & psychology, lean thinking, theory of constraints and more – more important is that leaders get on a path of ongoing development. This includes how they see the world and their interactions, how they come across in interactions with others, how they interact with their organization, their beliefs about leadership and purpose, and more. This is a long way of saying “Yes, we have methods, but you can’t expect to do this with a playbook.” That would be like expecting to conduct an orchestra or become a successful martial artist just by reading a book. It takes work and practice and changing the ways you think, and more than it does learning a new method.

3. Eric Miller also asked, “Can you share an organisational case study of how you have helped an organisation re-organise it’s environment (structures/systems/processes) to become more of a learning organisation? Do you have case studies of where you’ve done this completely?”

Leadership development work and becoming a learning organization, much like any transformative work, is work that doesn’t end – it continues as long as things change – it only pivots in direction. We have worked with customers who are and have been at different stages in this approach – from testing it out to more broadly enrolling in it. Every company’s experience will be different – based on their unique culture, structures, challenges and opportunities. As a result, we are wary of attempts to do it like the other guy did it. While we have many stories of different kinds from clients in nearly every industry, we tend to use these to help further specific learning rather than to prove success. Too often we’ve seen the management mentality of “let’s do what they did” or “let’s do it because did.” This, in addition to exemplifying some of the management mindsets we are trying to move away from, carries along with it a vast number of false assumptions – about the similarity between the organizations, industries, cultures, people, and more. And this can be a big obstacle to success.

Reading List

Books

  • The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization. Peter Senge. 1990.
  • The Future of Management. Gary Hamel. 2007.
  • Changing On the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World. Jennifer Garvey Berger. 2011.
  • Turn the Ship Around. L. David L. Marquet. 2012.
  • Reinventing Organizations. Frederic Laloux. 2014.

Online media