Most leadership theory and practice assumes that leaders lead followers. Certainly this has been the case and still holds true to some extent. However, increasingly leaders face the challenge of leading other leaders whether in corporate boards, executive teams, cross functional groups, mergers and acquisitions or alliances. Furthermore, studies indicate that teams in the zone lead each other.
The age of rapid change with its flattening organizations, disseminating information, spiraling change and complexity demands an expanded vision of leadership. Assuming that leaders lead only followers and that only individuals lead has now become misleading.
Humanity’s mental model of leadership has evolved from anarchy (no rule) to monarchy (one rule) to hierarchy (some rule over others) to what L3 names as the new era of leadership, panarchy (all rule). The evolving reality of panarchy changes the rules of leadership. Leading in the age of panarchy with only the leading followers model is like playing basketball by the rules of football or improvisational jazz through the structures of classical music.
Three key premises shape Leaders Leading Leaders®:
Leaders lead followers by controlling or convincing them of their point of view. Leaders lead leaders by conversing with them. But not just any type of conversation will do. Collective leadership requires a certain quality of dialogue. Intrachange Dialogue™ builds the foundation for L3.
Intrachange Dialogue™ is a process of mutual leadership where each participant simultaneously leads and follows. In the 20th century two new art forms emerged, improvisational jazz and improvisational theatre. Improvisation is a disciplined form of mutual leadership where each participant is simultaneously leader and follower. Improv creates something new in real time. Intrachange Dialogue™ provides a bridge for bringing the creative dynamic of the art of improvisation into business. L3 adopts some of the mindset and disciplines of improvisation and introduces key skills, such as displaying, conversing with the center, leading from the center out and consilience for leading with improvisational conversation.
We know how to lead by asserting directives or convincing others of our point of view. We know how to follow by surrendering to the leader’s orders or opinion. How do we lead and follow simultaneously? The unique competency of displaying empowers leaders to simultaneously lead and follow. As executives display they assert and surrender their points of view at the same time.
The dynamic of displaying can be illustrated through the action of putting a puzzle together. After distributing the pieces among the team members, no one hides their pieces in their pocket. Nor does anyone try to convince the others that their piece is the entire puzzle, hold on to their piece or rejecting other pieces because they are a different color or shape. Everyone looks at their puzzle piece, sets it in the middle, lets go of it, welcomes others' pieces and looks for the larger picture to emerge. Although this can test patience, if we stay with it, a picture greater than the sum of the parts appears.
In a conversation the pieces of the puzzle consist of the current thinking, feeling and interests of those present. Displaying avoids two things:
There are three dimensions of Intrachange Dialogue™: inner, inter and intra. Inner dialogue refers to the conversation within the individual including the array of thinking and feeling of the reactive self and the centered self. Inter dialogue refers to the interaction from person to person. Intra dialogue depicts the insight and energy that begins to emerge between people. Learning to listen and speak to this center, as well as to oneself and others, goes a long way to create the conditions for the exponential results of leadership from the center out.
See Success Stories: Leadership from the Center Out for an example of conversing with the center.
Most of the advances and problems of modern society originate from a rational, individualistic, primarily masculine form of intelligence. Problems can not be solved only with the intelligence that created them. The spiraling complexity of today's business challenges demands that we build upon this current intellectual foundation. The L3 program provides a format for raising intellectual capital by concomitantly accessing the following dimensions of intelligence:
This integration of intelligence is part of a wider movement called consilience which literally means "jumping together" of two notions that heretofore had been held separate. For example, the cover of Time magazine once read, "Science Finds God." Embracing these multiple ways of knowing creates the tensions and paradoxes required for breakthrough strategic thinking. Developing the capacity to hold two seemingly opposite ideas or energies and remaining open to a new ‘jumping together’ helps move teams into the zone of optimal performance.
A key assumption at play in the Leaders Leading Leaders® methodology is the primacy of "between." Prominent leadership theories and practices supporting a leader/follower model often assume that the key insight or inspiration for living lies within the individual. The leaders' task then becomes to instill their perspective within others. This model is consistent with a Western individual psychological model which assumes the core of living is within the individual.
The Intrachange Dialogue™ model of L3 assumes that the ultimate source for living exists between individuals, in the center of the collective. The individual insight and energy remains vital as a means to the collective energy. Martin Buber suggested that when two or more people are authentic with each other an insight or energy appears between them. Here the leaders' role is not to convince others to their point of view, but rather offer their perspectives as a piece of the emerging collective puzzle and invite and teach others how to do the same.
This between, or center, is depicted in our logo by the innermost circle. As a team consistently engages in open and authentic conversation new ideas, insights and energies appear in the center. This center then leads the team into the future. This image, as depicted in the results story, represents collective leadership not just from the top down and bottom up, but also from the center out.