Our friend Peter has progressed much since his younger days as an Expert leader. After successfully leading a transformation three years ago, where he managed to get the company moving in a new direction, he was offered a position as CEO for a smaller company in another industry. The challenges were so juicy that he accepted, despite really feeling connected to his former company that had played such a pivotal role in his development.
The new company worked with sustainable energy solutions, and Peter realised how much a bigger purpose meant to him. Just before leaving his previous role, he had taken an active part in rolling out a diversity and inclusion campaign as a lead ambassador on behalf of HR. Peter's approach to creating the new strategy undoubtedly cemented him as an inclusive leader with a significant impact across the organisation. It had also sparked something new in him. He realised he could do much more with his leadership and life than just leading a function or a company – something that had had less significance for him in his younger years.
Peter had reached a stage where his awareness of self and others exceeded most and was solidly anchored in himself. The meditation and self-centring exercises he had started two years ago helped with this.
Despite not being daily, the meditation practice made him realise how connected everything is. In his quiet moments, he could see the interrelatedness between work and private life; how both impact, and are impacted by, the company culture. How this again influences the overall well-being of self and employee and how their well-being ultimately influences the work culture, to mention a few. Causality went in all directions.
That was why he liked walking around the floors and sensing the atmosphere. Fifteen minutes on the floor gave much more insight than 3 hours of board meetings. The daily walks had an impact on the corporate culture. It was not unusual that he was taken aside by an employee who shared a thought, idea or frustration. As he consistently demonstrated appreciation for the input – more and more began to approach him. The valuable information that Peter got he used in decision-making meetings.
Not all had liked his approach. Mike, the COO, had initially taken offence by his engagement at all levels and not following the formal hierarchical structures. It was a very different leadership style compared to the former CEO. Once, Mike had openly, in a board meeting, emotionally shared his frustration. Peter had let him finish without showing any emotions besides active listening and had then kindly asked if Mike was interested in hearing his perspective. Mike, who was now calmer after having delivered his frustration, accepted. Peter shared his reflection on the critique in a still neutral and non-confrontational way. He shared where he could recognise the critique – points he already worked on - but also why he did and acted as he did. During the conversation, Mike calmed down. It created a space where Peter, together with Mike and the rest of the executive team, could talk through company culture and executive behaviours in a much more productive way. Peter's ability to centre and understand himself and others played a vital role in this.
Recently, Peter noticed a subtle change while taking his floor tours – especially in the marketing area. The new marketing director Julia, who started three months ago had already shown some impressive progress. Her focus on trust and collaboration was aligned with Peters's beliefs. And now, when the rest of the executive team had built a relationship characterised by mutual commitment, trust and collaboration, Peter knew they would achieve great results. Both for the company, their employees and not least the environment.
This was why Peter accepted this new challenge in the first place. He saw an opportunity to lead a transformational change in a company with a reach far beyond himself and the company. Peter felt a call to make a difference in a world of constant change, climate challenges, an ongoing energy crisis, and huge pressure on solutions that would benefit the most. This company had the technology and know-how but was challenged with its internal structure and lack of clear strategy and collaboration. It was a spin-off from a more prominent corporate. It had inherited certain un-useful features and corporate culture from its mothership – that could only be addressed by an aligned executive team.
And Julia would play a pivotal role. During the interview phase, he explained his vision for the company and what impact it would have on a wide scale. That had been Julia's primary driver for giving up her prestigious job in her former company. Peters had drawn her with his compelling vision and desire to make a change, and she, too, was driven by a deeper purpose in her life.
Leadership Agility Compass
The Leadership Agility Compass, as defined by Joseph and Joiners, 2007, operates with four areas of competencies or focus areas for the agile leader. These are:
Context Setting Agility: The larger systemic context surrounding your initiative.
Stakeholder Agility: Your initiative’s key stakeholders.
Creative Agility: The specific problems and opportunities your initiative must address for it to be successful.
Self-leadership Agility: Yourself as a leader.
Below is a more in-depth description of a Co-creator/Strategist leader's capacities and limitations, seen through the lens of the four angles. Each leadership stage builds on the previous vertical development stages. Below, therefore, makes the best sense if you have read the blog post about the Expert and Achiever stages.
Context setting agility
- Situational awareness: Global scope. Deeply aware of people across the world and the natural environment. Co-creator/Strategist leaders see their organisations both from macro and micro perspectives.
- Sense of purpose: A deeper meaning behind a vision is sought. Desire to make a difference for people, an industry, country etc. Co-creator/Strategist leaders typical seek to develop highly inclusive environments where responsibility is shared chiefly. More is involved in the creation of a vision/vital decisions etc. As their leadership style is rarely authoritative - strong teams and learning-oriented organisations are in focus.
- Stakeholder Understanding: The greater tolerance for, and greater interest in, frames of reference that differ from their own grows to include frames from other cultures, subcultures, and ethnic groups. Co-creator/Strategist leaders typically thrive in mixed ethnic and minority groups and their challenges. Their empathy allows them to experience life as other people experience it. This includes, for instance, in a confrontation with another person – understanding where they are coming from and using it constructively.
- Power style: Hold all the power styles like expertise and position (Experts), the power of personality and political positioning (Achievers) and the power of vision and participation (Catalysts). Co-creator/Strategist leaders can also use the power of life purpose and deep collaboration. Their ability to understand other frames - helps them extract valid points of feedback that are considered when searching for a solution.
- Connective Awareness: The Co-creator/Strategist leader can, in situations that involve conflicting frames of reference, identify what the frames are, where they conflict and where they have common elements, enabling them to discover proper win-win solutions. As they understand the interrelatedness that exists – they know that the best solutions are only created by involving the organisation broadly in creating a shared responsibility.
- Reflective Judgement: The Co-creator/Strategist has more profound insight into how value and belief systems are shaped by largely unconscious factors (family upbringing, temperament, character structure, social class, ethnic background, religious and political conditioning). Whenever they engage with others in solving business or organisational problems, they can readily see that these problems are ill-structured. Each party will see the problem and the solution differently. Collaborative conversations exploring differing perspectives are vital in creating shared understanding and mutually beneficial solutions.
- Self-awareness: Builds on the Catalyst level of self-awareness in the ability to focus on one's own behaviour, feeling and assumptions - immediately followed by a reflective process that puts thoughts or words on the observation. Some Co-creator/Strategist use meditation/therapeutic process that helps them develop this area. Compared to Catalysts, Co-creators/Strategists have developed a more affirming attitude toward themselves when self-confidence and self-esteem are challenged. They do that by accepting the feelings while they are there compared to retrospective self-affirmation.
- Leadership philosophy: For the Co-creator/Strategist, authenticity is vital. They seek to live life in balance with their deepest values – with a sense of life purpose. They understand that their leader self and private self are so related that personal and professional development are equally important and interrelated. A greater fulfilment in all aspects of life is sought.
Which of the strong capacities at the Co-creator/Strategist stage can you recognise in yourself?
Which of the limitations at the Co-creator/Strategist stage can you recognise in yourself?
Can you think of someone operating solidly at the Co-creator/Strategist stage?
Are you operating at the Co-creator/Strategist stage?
Next Week's Blog Post
Peter has vertically developed in the next blog post and now operates solidly at the Synergist/Alchemist stage. This becomes visible in how Peter seeks a global reach and creates win-win situations. Remember to sign up; hence you get a notification when the blog post is released.
* Joiner, B & Josephs, S. 2007. Leadership Agility – Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.