Dynamic Leadership: Thinking and Acting Dialectically.
If you read any serious review of strategy or public sector reforms in one guise, or another, you will find the leadership theme writ large. “More leadership is needed” or words to that effect. In terms of my own professional practice I moved away from more ‘fixed’ conceptions of leadership based, for example, on traits or a personality type many years ago.
That is not to say that they don’t have a part to play. Just not in the style of coaching and development that I specialise in. My niche tends to be for those in current leadership positions or roles and are leaders de facto. Therefore, my needs are different. Quite distinct. Unique? Well… not quite that far! But each of them is without a doubt a unique individual.
One model I have found that adds value is one that I developed around 7-years ago whilst completing some first-person inquiry work. I thought I might share it and you can see if it catches your imagination, interest or even curiosity?
Rather than seeing key concepts as ‘fixed’ it creates a context that is much more dynamic or fluid. It is grounded by leader-member exchange theory (LMX) and then fused or integrated with dialectical theory or dynamics.
For those of you that have not heard of this before consider a form of magnetic power like the one in the picture.
You might remember at school a simple experiment that used magnetic ‘power’ to drive a small object such as a toy car, for example? If not, then imagine one now.
Dialectical power is stating things as plainly as possible… the real energy from the two opposing forces: like the two poles of a magnet, North and South or positive and negative. You’ll soon notice that lots of practical things have two opposites: good and bad; eternity and mortality; the sacred and the profane; inside and out; back and front; etc.
In terms of developing leadership awareness or ‘talent’, skills and responsiveness to a given context my clients have found the following model adds value. For our model imagine two sets of poles or opposites:-
- Vision/Far Away versus Present/ The-Here-and-Now
- Individual/Team Needs versus Task/Delivery/Execution
Most of the leadership empirical evidence tends to support the view that leaders will have strengths or preferences for one of the two poles. For example, a Visionary leader may have a compelling strategy. And they might also prefer to meet the individual and team’s emotional, psychological and training needs. However, as you can see their ‘blind spot’ is that they are not strong on focussing on the here and now and the absolute need to deliver a product and/or service to their customers or service users. This analytical framework can be found in many organisations, as well as many a discussion in the staff canteen when front-line staff are ‘getting it in the neck’ from disgruntled customers due to delivery delays!
My clients report that they have found that the practical added value of this model lies in the ability to empower them in these five key realities:-
- More flexibly in harnessing organisational energy (a great part of the model is making energy explicit. I’ll blog soon on various organisational energy flows especially around innovation).
- Responding to emergent business/customer intelligence in more responsive and effective ways
- Team members connecting their work-load to the broader Vision and thereby enhancing meaning; job satisfaction and retention rates
- Improved delivery of key products/services to customers
- Improved cognitive and emotional capacity through reflective professional practice
I hope this model might help you to see yourself in a dynamic, fluid and changing leadership context and that you can respond in more grounded and reflective ways.
Take care Jason
Jason is a Business Psychologist as well as a qualified Project Manager professional.