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If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Aborting the Hunt - Four Dimensions of Leadership

Leadership. To some it remains intriguing, others feel they have been swamped with theories, models, research studies, and the still growing industry of leadership books, coaches, and institutes, yet others wonder what the fuss is all about. But we probably all agree that the world of business and beyond, especially the world beyond business, is a much better world when led by great leaders, at every level and whatever model or theory you adhere to.

In 2010 Mark Bodnarczuk, Executive Director of research center for the study of organizational culture the Breckenridge Institute, wrote an article called Four Dimensions of Leadership. Two beliefs in this article, or better, in his leadership thinking, appeal to me. First, that “leadership is one of the most valuable of human activities.” A statement so true, and often not considered to its full extent. Leadership is the most valuable of human activities, I believe, in schools, in sports, in the community, in politics, in business, and not to forget, in the family.
Amidst the overwhelming industry called leadership, many still seem to be looking to and often even longing to identify the basic building blocks that define effective, outstanding leadership. I consider this at least remarkable, knowing that the world is a very diverse place, knowing that a specific context, particular circumstances, a specific culture and a specific time period are highly formative and require very different things from leaders. And they should. Why do we aim to unravel the keys to remarkable leadership? What purpose would it serve to settle for a certain set of characteristics, strengths, qualities or whatever we want to call them? We all know that the ability to envision, inspire, bring together, look beyond etc. is essential in great leadership. As Bodnarczuk discusses in his article, leaders do not operate in a vacuum. They are, instead, “embedded within specific historical contexts, business situations, and the organizational structures, systems, and culture within which people lead.” For the purpose of recruiting, growing, and nurturing leaders, it is, of course, important to know what to look for (when recruiting) and how to grow and assess leaders. No question about it. And the Breckenridge model with four interdependent dimensions of leadership, the second aspect of Bodnarczuk’s leadership thinking that appeals to me, can be useful:

  • Expertise, Experience, and Wisdom, including education, expertise, a track record of effectively leading organizations, and experience in specific industries and markets.
  • Problem Solving Ability: intellectual horsepower needed to effectively perform and deal with complexity.
  • Personality, Core Beliefs and Values, which manifests itself in behavioral and action patterns, intrinsic motivations, and which includes how a leader views himself, others, and the world around him or her.
  • Awareness of Self and Others, and anything that happens between self and others, with an intuitive knowing in the here-and-now at its core.
I think these four dimensions entail all relevant parts of leadership without being rigid and overly descriptive of what a great leader should believe, think, do, feel, accomplish. I greatly appreciate Bodnarczuk’s statement that leadership and leadership development is a “complex, interdependent process that involves a person’s natural abilities, talents, personality, and level of awareness, working together within the specific historical context and business situation in which people are embedded.” So let’s stop hunting for more models and golden tips and characteristics and let’s start doing and being the leader that we want to see in others. Step by step, through successes and through failures, with a decent scoop of common sense and courage, with an open to new perspectives, and a willingness to stumble, fall, and get up again doing things differently next time.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed! While some see CEOs as examples of leaders, each of us plays a leadership role every day. And we can all work on these dimensions to improve our capabilities. We can all lead - and the first step is to start!