One of the most insightful questions I have heard asked is “Who do you want me to be for you right now?” As a leader, that question reflects a commitment to being agile and flexible, to give to the individual or team what they need at that moment in time, and to keep moving purposefully towards our common goal.
I’m a guy movie guy. Tough guy takes a stand, gets knocked down, strives to make it, and at times looks like he won’t, faces the epic battle and comes out on top (either with the girl or a huge body count, or both). Think Braveheart, Gladiator, We Were Soldiers; you get the picture. These characters have such an attraction to me because they stand up and take charge solving the unsolvable problems at hand. They usually gather a group of people around them and become a band of brothers (or sisters) that overcome insurmountable odds to reach a distant but silver lined victory… that’s great leadership!
There’s a point where they stop being movies and these characters actually become career options. Sidebar, I know!
What I notice is that leaders have to be able to make decisions WITH people around them, and at times, make decisions WITHOUT people around them. Sometimes, leadership is more like the round table that King Arthur enjoyed. He was very much the King but at a table of shared power. At other times, leadership might be more like the person making the primary decisions in a crisis. It’s an emergency; there is no time for consultation, just decisions and implementation.
Leadership has to be both a circle AND a triangle.
The circle is where power is shared; opinions are aired, and voices are equal. It’s where we hear with the intent to understand, ensure our contribution is constructive, serve others. It still has a leader (Remember King Arthur) yet the role of that leader is more consultative, facilitative, consensus building. Making sure there is equality in the power and access to influencing the outcomes. Then, once gathered, the call gets made and implementation becomes the priority.
Circles are excellent forums for brainstorming, creativity and reviews. Circles help team members feel a sense of equal contribution to the shared goal. Circles give a place for development of culture, cross-functional activity and genuine service through co-creation.
Triangles are not circles. Triangles have a clear top. It’s obvious where the decision gets made and by who. Once that decision gets made it has to ‘trickle’ down to be implemented. Triangles are excellent when there is a crisis or emergency; they work well when ‘all hell has broken loose’ and an individual, team, or organisation has lost its way. When quick decisions need to be made triangles do their best work. Facing conflict, digging deep for courage, putting aside personal involvement for the benefit of the overall objective. That’s a triangle.
Triangles help break deadlocks, manage conflicting opinions, they give team members clarity on what to focus on and the urgency to step out and do it.
The important thing to remember is when to be a circle and when to be a triangle. Getting that wrong won’t serve your team, won’t make the next steps clearer and won’t get the job done.
#leadsmall – because when you do, big things can happen.