Thursday, September 06, 2012
Vindolanda was build c AD 300, 1712 years ago and was one of a series of such forts. Each fort was connected to a network of proper all weather roads complete with drainage and a complete set of traffic regulations.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Successful acts of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurialism in particular are defined by the individual's ability to hold, cope and be persistent in situations that are highly ambiguous. Few true entrepreneurs create businesses using a step-by-step 'it's all mapped out' approach. Rather they feel their way forwards, frequently changing direction, often changing their business to meet prevailing conditions and succeed.
For example an indian restaurant set up in an out-of-town cinema complex just outside Oxford about five years ago. It was designed as a high end, sophisticated and elegant eatery. The business struggled for years. The problem is the restaurant is in a concrete cinema complex right next door to a very popular 'eat-as-much-as-you-want' fixed price chinese buffet. The chinese buffet would have queues outside whilst the indian was empty. A quick look in the vast car park outside was all the data you needed about the socio-economic profile of the typical customer to the complex, these are certainly not high end vehicles. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. After struggling for years the business changed tack and is now an eat-as-much-as-you-want fixed price indian buffet. It is now a popular business with a reasonable turnover. They changed their business strategy, (eventually) and appeared to have saved they day.
The problem, in many organisations and companies is that most managers grow up and are promoted for compliance and regulating people, not for being maverick agents of innovation and change. Most organisations require layers of agreement (and meetings) for any change to occur. Being a creative and innovative entrepreneur, in many organisations is a bit like trying to melt an iceberg with the aid of a soggy box of matches.
So, can you change someone from being an agent of compliance into an entrepreneurial being. The short answer is yes, in many (not all) cases. However if the organisational systems promote compliance and regulation this is very hard to achieve and will certainly create 'drag' in the entrepreneurial aspirations of the company.
Monday, April 23, 2012
A new world fact is a new truth that has come about because of a change.
An old world fact is a truth that was considered to be true before the change, but is no longer true as a result of that change.
When a change occurs it takes time
- for the change to be noticed, and
- for the new rules or facts / beliefs to become obvious.
- Shaving causes hair to grow back thicker and stronger. It doesn't.
- Men think about sex every seven second. It has never been measured.
- Sugar causes hyperactivity in children. There is no scientific evidence for this. In fact double blind experiments have shown no change in behaviour.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
So I thought I would do a short blog on 'motivation' to highlight the difference between motivation, manipulation and using force of any nature, including rewards and punishments.
My first question is: "What does it feel like to be genuinely motivated to do something?"
Yes that feeling; the excitement and drive. The sense that you really want to do this, often regardless of some extrinsic (external) reward.
My next question is: "What does it feel like to be forced or manipulated into doing something?". Quite a difference my guess is.
It turns out that there are some core factors that create a motivated state:
The main contributing factor to becoming motivated is that the task has to be meaningful to the individual. So what makes something meaningful?
- External Validity. Firstly the task has to make sense to the individual on the level that they know how it fits into or contributes to the advancement of some goal. they actually agree with. This may of course include a personal goal such as promotion or inclusion in a CV for example.
- Global Validity. If the task passes the individual's external validity test, the task then has to have global validity in that the individual has to believe that this is a good and valid thing to do to. In other words is a worthy cause or goal? Is what they are about to contribute to valued by them.
- Internal Validity. Thirdly the individual has to understand what to do and how to it, and feel that their skills and knowledge (expertise) is being utilised correctly and are valued. Basically that they are not being used.
- Enjoyment. Lastly will they either enjoy doing it, or enjoy having completed the task, or enjoy the kudos of having been part of the process?
Friday, April 06, 2012
Business Option 1 will almost certainly make you $10,000. It is quite likely (over 80% probability) this option will work and you will make the money.
Business Option 2 could make you $20,000. However you no idea what the probability of this option working is.
Business Option 3 could make you anything. You don't know how much it might make or what the probability is that it will work.
You have to make a decision right now or option 1 will disappear. Which option would you take and why?
The Ambiguity Bias or Ambiguity Effect is a bias where people are affected by the lack of information or the amount of ambiguity inherent in a situation. In other words most people tend to prefer known situations even though they might not be the most advantageous. People tend to prefer certainty over ambiguity.
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
Friday, March 30, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
The relationships and levels of communication between managers is critical if an organisation or team is going to successfully profit from an uncertain or ambiguous situation.
Fostering positive and professional working relationships between managers, looking for communication blockages and dealing with them and making sure there are active communications up and down the line are all part of this principle.
The number of times I go into an organisation which needs help to deal with an uncertain or ambiguous situation to find that the managers, whilst often well trained as individuals, are dysfunctional as a group and certainly aren't a close knit team in themselves. Petty infighting, managers going it alone, lack of trust and less than helpful relationships within the management team will often de-rail any efforts to get them to navigate and get creative with ambiguity. My team frequently have to get the managers aligned and communicating before we can really get to work. In fact quite a bit of the internal ambiguity and uncertainty is actually created by the management of the organisation in many cases. Too little emphasis is placed on this principle in organisations. More should be made of this in appraisals and competency frameworks where they exist, and it should certainly be a topic of conversation with managers of all grades.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The 6 Psychological Factors of a Good Leader:
- Decisiveness. The ability to make frequent and consistant decisions. This includes the sub-factors of taking responsibility for their decisions, knowing and sticking to the principles and ethics driving their decision making. Decisiveness is often seen as providing clarity in uncertain situations.
- Overall competence. Good leaders are all seen as competent, not just as leaders but also within the realm they making decisions in. They are not just managing any situation but have competence in dealing with such situations and are perceived as having that level of competence.
- Integrity or honest intent. People follow and trust leaders who they believe have the best intent or purpose. Integrity and others trust are usually seen by people as part of the same factor.
- Vision. Often trotted out as a core leadership activity, vision in this case is the ability of the leader to project / articulate a clear, coherent and comprehensible path towards a meaningful goal.
- Persistance. Not only are good leaders clear about their goals they keep going and don't give up. This does not mean that they keep on regardless and there is a sub-factor of adaptability especially if a better way is found or the context/situation changes.
- Modesty. This is an interesting and surprising factor. Leaders who blow their own trumpet / feel the need to tell others how good they are are frequently associated with being a bad leader. Good leaders are seen as those who praise the right people and give credit to the team rather than themselves.
- Adaptability / agility. This is the ability to deal flexibly with rapidly changing situations and has the sub-factors of the ability to see change as it happens, the ability to hold competing perspectives and deal with ambiguity and rapid change.
- Autonomy. This is the ability to stand alone when needed and make their own mind up as opposed to following trends without critical appraisal.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Something is ambiguous if it can be interpreted or seen in more than one way. So for example a sentence in a job reference "you will be very fortunate to get this person to work for you" has a couple of different interpretations. Either the subject of this reference is very good or very lazy.
Uncertainty on the other hand is any situation in which an individual has or finds doubt. So a situation could be uncertain but not ambiguous. People can have doubt about the most certain of situations and no doubt about an ambiguous situation. Uncertainty is then also a perception and an individual experience.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
- The range appears to be from people who in certain situations beat themselves up because they failed or something they were attempting failed. They have a negative emotional reaction to the failure which usually gets them down, for a period at least. This is the 'failure is a disaster / problem' attitude.
- At the other end of the spectrum is the 'failure is important feedback' attitude which we tend to find in successful entrepreneurs for example. This is often a sign of high levels of emotional resilience as long as it is real and not just "I'm saying because thats what I've been told is the value here" rhetoric, found in many organisations. You can tell the difference by the individuals longer term emotional reaction to failure. This end is encapsulated by the Thomas Edison quote “I didn’t fail. I just found ten thousand ways that didn’t work.”.
- The position in the middle of the range is the 'sh*t happens' attitude. Whilst this attitude often enables someone to move on, the learning is often minimal.
An individuals reactions are often situational, so a fail in one context or situation can be treated differently to a failure in a different situation (what's known as 'low emotional inertia' - more on this in a later blog), however we do notice trends. So a person who employs a genuine 'failure is feedback' mindset is much more likely to do so in a wider range of situations.
- At one end of the range we have people who don't even recognise ambiguities and uncertainties and when they do, spend a lot of time trying to make them go away or pretending and hoping they will go away. If the situation can not be escaped from these individuals will become highly stressed and will often have very negative reactions to the situation.
- In the middle are a set of reactions which can be summed up by shrugged shoulders and the attitude "well it may be ambiguous but hey what can you do about it?"
- At the other end of the spectrum are the individuals who expect ambiguity and uncertainly. Their belief is everything, and I mean everything is uncertain. They tend not to get stressed by ambiguity, in fact prefer to work in ambiguous situations and jobs. It makes them happy. Why because its a licence to experiment, play and learn.
- Psychological inertia - where people keep going with the same beliefs, values and behaviour even though the situation strongly suggests that doing something differently would be advantageous. Usually at this end of the spectrum there is a considerable amount of change blindness, where an individual believes things are just the same as before, they don't notice to cues that change has or is occurring.
- The middle ground where the change is noticed but this results in little or no change in thinking, beliefs or behaviour. Often referred to as stupidity.
- At the other end of the spectrum is a group of individuals who can learn readily, change rapidly in the face of change and adapt their beliefs to the situation, searching out what the reality of the situation is rather than imposing their reality on the situation. This is psychological agility.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
They mix modes and types / styles of leadership. They are not the same. See an earlier blog about modes here.
Friday, January 28, 2011
So leading on from the previous blog. What I was really interested in was the quality of the feedback given to an individual through the four conditions mentioned in my last blog.
- The Receiver of the feedback: Usefulness average 2.1, Accuracy 2.0, Honesty 4.2
- The Respondents: Usefulness 2.9, Accuracy, 2.9, Honesty 1.8
- The Receiver of the feedback: Usefulness average 3.1, Accuracy 2.9, Honesty 3.7
- The Respondents: Usefulness 2.8, Accuracy 3.3, Honesty 1.5
- The Receiver of the feedback: Usefulness average 3.2, Accuracy 3.5, Honesty 4.0
- The Respondents: Usefulness 4.2, Accuracy 4.1, Honesty 4.1
- The Receiver of the feedback: Usefulness average 4.6, Accuracy 4.7, Honesty 4.6
- The Respondents: Usefulness 4.2, Accuracy 5.0, Honesty 4.9
- Fed back to the individual
Monday, January 24, 2011
Sunday, January 23, 2011
A couple of clients last week poked me and said. You must be busy because we haven't seen much from your blog recently. I have been working on a number of projects including the next book and a new academic post, however I will get back to this - now.
There have been a couple of interesting and interconnected pieces of research published recently about problem solving and emotion. Readers of The Ambiguity Advantage and clients I coach will know that one premise I work from is that every decision we make is emotionally based. There are a number of prices of research (especially current work using MRi and fMRi) that shows emotional parts of the brain kick in before the decision and the rational-logical areas get to work after the decision is formed. In other words we appear to make decisions based on emotion and then engage in post-decision rationalisation.
A paper actually published in 2009(1) has just hit the headlines (NY Times) in which it was found that positive mood and in particular enjoying comedy just before having to solve a problem increased insight problem solving ( just getting the answer as opposed to methodically working through the problem). Not reported but in the original paper was that the researchers found that anxiety depressed insight problem solving, so that individuals were significantly less likely to be able to just intuitively get the answer.
There are quite a number of research papers showing similar findings, however what Is different here is that the researchers used fMRi to see the process happening.
The second article (2) (awaiting publication), looks at using emotion regulation (the stuff I teach about emotional resilience) strategies when making risk decisions. They discovered that the use of such strategies not only helped the participants to make better decisions but they were also better able to workout which decisions were the riskier choices more accurately and mediate their response in the light of this. This meant that they were able to avoid the decisions that could have more negative effects when engaging in emotional regulation activity then when not, especially under stress.
So what does all this mean? Firstly we are less likely to be able to solve problems with insight problem solving when anxious. Secondly when under stress we are not that good at discerning the levels of risk of a problem or ambiguous situation and are therefore likely to make a more risky decision without knowing we are doing so.
The ability to regulate our emotions is important in both cases. To 'up-regulate' for insight and regulate and therefore mediate the effects of anxiety and stress in any situation that contains ambiguity (I would argue all situations contain ambiguity) so we can better perceive the risks involved and reduce the negative effects that risk and anxiety have on our decision making capability.
1. Subramaniam K, Kounios J, Parrish TB, & Jung-Beeman, M. (2009) A brain mechanism for facilitation of insight by positive affect. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. 2009 Mar;21(3):415- 432
2. Martin, L.N. & Delgado, M.R. (2011) The influence of Emotion Regulation on Decision Making Under Risk. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. Yet to be published - 2011 poss May/June.
Saturday, November 27, 2010
- Improvise, and
Monday, November 08, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
I have been doing some work with a couple of clients around building a strategic plan. Usually what they want is a business / corporate / organizational strategy for the next 3 - 5 years. I highlighted the word a above for a very good reason, which I will explain in a second.
Monday, June 21, 2010
One of the areas I have been focussing on both in terms of work and research (there is another book on the way) is emotional resilience (we run The Fear Course in many UK universities). One of the most common misperception about emotional resilience is that it means people are able to do things like make decisions, deal with situations without emotion.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
In terms of population distribution by far the most frequent group of people are mode two or co-operative people. Approximately 55% of the population have a tendency towards a co-operative thinking system (What is a mode?).
So what are the attributes of a mode two logic system?
1. The first thing of note about mode two or cooperative people is that they see value in other people. There is a realisation here that two heads are better than one and you need to work with people, a) to get things done, and b) to make things better. What underpins this largely is the mediation of risk. There is safety in teams. "If I make a decision on my own and it is wrong there is only one person at fault. If I make a decision based on a collection of others ideas that they agree with and 'we' are wrong, then that is less of a personal risk to me.
2. Democracy is the usual method of decision making here. Everyone has a vote and the majority win - except when they don't! Co-operative leaders / managers will usually reserve the right to make the final decision. This will in all likely hood be similar to the majority view but not always.
3. There is usually a collective wish / need to reduce risks as much as possible. So you find lots of structures like competencies etc. in mode two organisations as well as other risk reduction behaviours / thinking.
4. There is a distinct focus on task here. In mode two organisations the task is the focus. There is a little emphasis in modal mode two on process in as far as it effects the task. What I mean by this is that things like 'team building' and the reduction of conflict are highlighted activities in mode two environments. This is to ensure as far as is possible that the task gets done with the minimum of friction.
5. Friction is usually defined in this logic system as being anything or anyone that is percieved to get in the way of or slow down the completion of the task.
6. Cooperative problem solving approaches are the big feature here. Two or more people working together to solve a problem. It does not matter what the people involved believe, indeed people in this system are largely expected to work regardless of their beliefs. The prevailing thinking is, you are paid to work so work. If the people working together don't believe in the task they are just expected to get on with it, unlike as you will see mode three systems.
7. Using others as resources is really the name of the game - cooperate to get the job done.
8. As mentioned above mode two people really don't like conflict. In the workplace great effort is taken to reduce interpersonal conflict or better still to stop it happening. Conflict is seen as unproductive and an unnessessary distraction. It also (importantly) doesn't feel good.
9. Emotional resilience in mode two is pretty low to average to say the least. More about this in a later post.
10. Ambiguity and uncertainty is to be reduced. A lot of effort and money is used (often unsuccessfully) to make things simple and clear especially in mode II organisations. Ambiguity is seen as the nemasis of productivity.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Mode One Leaders
The key here is that mode one people do not like uncertainty or risk and that their reaction is to block it out in some way.
Mode 1 leader - Mode 1 follower
So if a mode one leader has a mode one follower or followers, in terms of relationships then the union is usually mutually happy - for a while. Both sides of this pairing are risk averse and will happily collude to make up their own versions of reality that exclude uncertainty (lots of structures and systems just to make sure) and reduce risk. If you need stability then a mode one leader will give you it - in bucket loads.
Problems, usually in the form of stress and blaming usually occur in this relationship when things start to go wrong (as they often will). Problems usually arise out of the fact that together mode one leaders and followers are the least likely to spot external changes and the most likely to keep doing the same thing regardless. In other words a mode one leader or manager with mode one followers are the most likely combination to fool themselves about what is going on. This is exacerbated by the fact that mode one leaders are very likely to recruit mode one people - diversity is seen as a risk.
On the other hand mode one leaders with mode one followers are most likely to have stable relationships with each other with little if any friction or conflict. In stable times, as long as nothing goes wrong and risk is low, then this is a happy and productive pairing.
However if a mode one leader has followers from other modes things will become problematic, with the paradoxical pairing of a mode one leader with a mode four 'follower'. I will look at these pairing in future postings as and when we get to the exploration of that mode.
Mode one followers
Mode one followers are largely passive and they want explicit direction which works well with mode one leaders who want to reduce risk and therefore give very detailed instructions. Problems arise when a situation moves away from the formulaic and require creativity and critical thinking. Their form of creativity is step-by-step slow and incremental change. Their form of logic and therefore critical thinking is control and risk reduction. They will work nicely in structured well defined situations. If you change this and ask for fundamental change quickly, denial will be the most likely initial response. Force it and stress and illness is likely to occur. This is a similar response if you ask a mode one follower to do anything that is ambiguous and not well defined.
They appreciate the structure of mode one leaders and suffer under mode two and three leaders. They can freak out under a immature mode four leader but work well under a mature mode four leader. I will go into these in greater details shortly as we get to each mode description.
In the next blog I will have a look at mode two people.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The term technical leadership or followership comes from the thinking and subsequent approaches to problem solving that underpin and define this system.
Mode one individuals largely see the world as a series of technical issues that all have an answer. If you don't know the answer to a problem then someone else will. This is a world of experts and consultants, you just need to find the right expert to solve any problem. The view here is that everything has a well defined answer, you just need to find it. This approach is usually illustrated by 'flowchart decision making' with no shades of grey.
Mode one individuals (followers and leaders) tend not to entertain ambiguity and uncertainty easily if at all. The most frequent mode one reactions to ambiguity and uncertainty include:
- outright denial of the situation,
- create their own (usually imaginary) certainty / reality,
- displacement behaviour aka do something else (normally something comforting).
Mode one leaders are autocrats. Mode one followers are largely passive and dependent people who want to be told what to do and they tend not vary from the script. Mode one leaders and followers go together well. However if a mode one follower is under a mode two, three or four leader, the leaders would do well to be very explicit about what is required of them. They will see people from other modes as increasingly unstructured and dangerous or a least unsafe. These are not great people in times of change as they will fight to get back to the old certainty or fool themselves that things have not or are not changing.
Mode one leaders in charge of organisations in times of change (like the current situation) are the number one candidates for loosing their business.
Mode one followers are the most difficult (but not impossible) to get to embrace change. Both mode one leaders and followers can embrace change if handled correctly.
A nice summary of mode one people:
- Following ‘characterised’ procedures
- Making incremental changes
- Postponing reward
- Staying safe
- Standardising procedures
- Leading from the front
- Risk & Ambiguity
- Non standard thinking
- Empathy and emotional intelligence / resilience (they can appear very resilient but this is only due to denial and displacement)
- Co-operation and collaboration
- Strategic concepts (big picture)
Here are the distributions of modes in the leadership population.
Next I will look at mode two leaders and followers.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
I have been asked for a little more info about the concept of a mode.
Whilst conducting research for the book ‘The Ambiguity Advantage’ I spent four years examining people’s reactions to ambiguous and uncertain situations. One recurring factor with people’s ability to cope with change is their ability to be able to cope with the ambiguity and uncertainty inherent in change.
From this work it became apparent that the system of logic or perspective being used by any individual bounds and gives direction to their response. This includes how people respond in terms of their:
So a mode is a whole system of logic, thinking, perception, emotion etc. It is impossible to separate these out especially in terms of which is causal and which is an effect, which is why I describe them as a system involving all these elements rather than a style.
Next, I will look at the system of Mode one or technical (dualist) individuals. It's nice to be back!
Friday, December 12, 2008
Firstly sorry about the pause in the blog. I have been setting up a new venture which has taken up more time than I expected, and we have been a little busy helping people deal with risk, ambiguity and emotional resilience. I have a sneeking feeling that I am in a minority in enjoying the current times and finding them very exciting. Things are starting to settle down now so normal service will be resumed. I am going to start off where I left off - talking about followership and leadership using the modes of leadership from my own research around how people deal with ambiguity.
Before I commence just a quick word about modes v styles.
A mode is a system of logic, or of constructing our thinking and therefore a system of perceiving the world around us. It affects everything we do, think and feel. They are not styles or preferences in the strict sense that they do not describe behaviours as such however discernible behaviours are apparent as a result of the mode an individual is in.
Modes are usually semi-perminant in that people will operate from a mode and tend not to move between them unless a) they have learnt about the other systems and are onciously doing so, or b) are in transition between two modes in response to some change or other.
In the next few articles I will explore each of the four modes and how people in them see the world. I will then have a look at the interactions between the modes in terms of leadership and followership, and a few other things. You can get a good overview in the book The Ambiguity Advantage.
These are quite likely to be interspersed with comment on current topics as well as there is a lot to think about at the moment.
In the next blog we will look at mode one or technical leadership.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Hi. This is Ira Chaleff responding to your description of my work on Followership.
First, thank you for a fair description and for alerting readers to the existence of our Followership Exchange WIKI that is becoming a posting ground for research and current activities on the topic of followership.
I think it would be useful for your readers to know that the two dimensions that create my "followership styles" typology are the degree of support given to the leader and the willingness to question or challenge (admittedly a bit of a strong word) a leader's actions that are counterproductive.
To answer your question "Are the styles fixed?" the answer is unequivocally "no." In workshops I have participants complete a self assessment questionnaire that places them in one of the four styles, or occasionally on the cusp between two styles. We then examine the growth direction for each style. Generally speaking, for those in the Resource or Individualist style the growth direction is giving the leader more support. For those in the Implementer style it is pushing beyong their comfort zone to vocalize questions or discomfort they are harboring about a leader's plans or actions. For those in the Partner quadrant, growth may be in either direction, continually working to serve the organization and leader better while being more willing to be an important source of candor for the leader. In my model, Follower is a role, not a personality type, and people can develop in a role.
My own view on these typologies is that their primary value is to begin giving people some language to think about the follower role, how they do it, and how they might do it differently. They typically haven't thought much about it, as there was an absence of language with which to do so.
To some degree you can view my typology as dynamically linked to Hersey/Blanchard's Situational Leadership typology. As the follower's "task maturity" increases there ideally would be a movement from Resource to Implementer to Partner. However, several factors can keep this from happening including internalized rule sets regarding authority relationships, organization culture, socio-economic stressors, etc. The aim of "Courageous Followership" is to lower the self-imposed barriers to acting as a fully responsible Partner for leaders, whether or not the leader invites this. Of course, doing this requires both courage and skill. The Courageous Follower book is a resource for an individual to develop in both dimensions. By contrast, The Art of Followership is a compendium of academic research into followership, and practitioner experiences with implementing followership development programs, in a variety of organizations.
The most fundamental point of Courageous Followership is that those who are not in the Leader role, can and should help the leader use his or her power well to achieve the organization's mission, and keep the leader from squandering or abusing power through courageous and skilfull support, feedback and, when necessary, moral stands.
Thank you again for this very valuable series which we will point Followership Exchange WIKI visitors to as well.
Thanks for the response. The link to Followership Exchange is here.
The interesting thing for me is the notion that even in the partner quadrant growth can be in either direction. Interesting because the emphasis appears to be on what is good for the organisation, or to put it another way, on the primacy of the goals of the organisation. This is where conflict for these people can arise.
Sometimes good partners who are intelligent (critical thinkers), courageous and challenging will also be using these skills on the ethics and morals (different things) of the aims of the organisation. As this is often profit before everything else (they can see through 'ethical' dressing up to make their goods or services more attractive / profitable), this then places a partner in a dilemma and thence into an ambiguous place where they have strong loyalty to the individual leaders but a weakening connection with the aims of the organisation. How they will deal with such a dilemma will depend on their 'mode' of thinking, which is what the modes of leadership are...
Monday, July 21, 2008
The next followership model, another typology, comes from Ira Chaleff who I believe is part of the Followership Exchange a rather useful wiki devoted to followership. Chaleff published 'The Couagous Follower; Standing up and for our leaders.' initially in 1995 and earlier this year (2008) published (with Ronald E. Riggio, and Jean Lipman-Blumen) 'The Art of Followership: How Great Followers Create Great Leaders and Organizations'.
Chaleff's original work on followership proposed an interesting typology which emphasises the relationship between leaders and followers. Importantly this work recognises the positive role of follower challenge to leadership thinking and as the title of the second book suggests the role followers can play in developing and maturing leaders. Chaleff (et al) blur the lines between follower and leader, seeing rather the dance between the two in influencing and developing each other. The focus here is on the skills of the follower rather than their personality. Skills can be developed and updated and appear less set. There is a downside to skills based arguments however. They often led to indoctrinational types of instrumental training programmes to ensure compliance, which when you look at the typology will work with only a few types of follower. This is not a fault of the model, rather of the interpretation and abstraction of the model by people who misunderstand how such models can be used.
Blind obedience in this model is not seen as a positive attribute, hence the emphasis on bravery (both of the leader and the follower) to tackle the things that need to tackled.
Implementers. These are the majority of most organisations workers. They do most of the work and busy themselves doing and completing tasks. However they tend not to question the leaders, preferring instead to 'just get on with the job'
Partners. These people want (and often need) to be seen as equal to the leader, especially in terms of their skills and thinking. If this state is allowed to exist in the relationship the partner-follower will respect the leaders position and support the leader strongly. They will also provide the intellectual challenge needed by the leader. With the right leader a strong and positive partnership will develop. If however the leader won't allow these people to partner them (often out of fear that their position/status will be diminished) then they can create powerful enemies.
Individualists. Individualists are independent and will think for themselves. This does not mean that they are selfish, they just don't tend to follow 'group think'. They also like to do as they see fit and do not make great followers in the traditional sense. the wise leader however will use the attributes of the individualist wisely. These people, as long as you keep contact with them, will often provide new ideas and ways of thinking that can be used.
Recourses. These people will do what they have been asked to do and no more. They tend to lack the requisite intellect, imagination and courage needed to do more (I do find the label 'Resources' somewhat depreciating, however I do understand the sentiment behind it!).
As can be seen the focus here is more of a partnership and therefore the relationship between leader and follower. The blurring of the lines between leader and follower in the partner scenario is useful. However as noted before it does depend on the maturity of the leader for it to work. What I do like about this work is the call for courage and therefore emotional maturity / resilience.
As with most typologies (which models of followership tend to be) there is the question as to the nature of the types. Are the types, personality based, fixed and you just need to accept them?
Are they skill based and all you need to do is increase the skills by training, which is an often alluring proposition?
Are they intelligence or even maturity based?
Or a mix maybe? Issues rarely tackled by the models.
Other questions include:
Can people move between the types? Most models appear not to discuss this and accept the position people play. The way around this is often seen as training people to be a particular (more useful) type.
Why are they all 2x2 models? Can the reality (whatever that is) of followership (whatever that is!) really just fall neatly into a world of two dimensions?
Notwithstanding these questions, Chaleff's work requires close scrutiny as the emphasis on relationships and courage is a very profitable (useful and practical) line of thinking which many leaders and employees would do well to think about.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Today we travel back to 1965, to one of the earliest contemporary models of followership. Abraham Zaleznik, a professor at Havard, proposed the model in an article titled The Dynamics of Subordinacy in the HBR. The title itself speaks volumes about the thinking of the time. The concept of the subordinate is not something that is entertained easily these days and any leader that referred to their followers / employees as 'subordinates' would likely be seen as 'old hat' at the charitable end of reactions.
This model owes much to a freudian view of the world which itself is also somewhat out of fashion these days and as a result the model is now rarely seen as credible. It tends to be included in curricula as an exercise in academic criticism.
Ahead of it's time however, this is an early 2 x 2 model, which is again indicative of the type thinking being used by Zaleznik at the time. On a personal note I do find my self a little suspicious of models that fit neatly into a 2 x 2 matrix, as many models do. My question is:
Is it likely that (and this is a challenge to all of these 'neat' models) the data really determined the model? Or has the data has been somehow squished into a matrix and made to fit, or were they filtered (either during collection or analysis) through bi-dimensional (x vs y) thinking? If my suspicions have any foundation then the validity of these type of models should be questioned.
As a side note I find Zaleznik's later leadership writings simlarly interesting in that he describes leaders as 'charismatics' and managers as 'non-charismatics'.
However regardless of these issues the model introduces interesting dimensions worthy of consideration. Zaleznik makes a comparison based on the dimensions of activity and control.
The four quadrants of this model are:
- Impulsive followers (High Dominance / Actitive) who's defining characteristic is that they try to lead or influence others and their leader whilst being a follower them self. These are active and controlling people who try to dominate others and frequently (as the name suggests) act impulsively tending to move into areas that others wouldn't, sometimes seen as courageous and sometimes ill advised.
- Compulsive followers (High Dominance / Passive) are more passive than their impulsive colleagues. The rationale here is that these people would like to dominate their leaders and others but hold back out of guilt (Freudian).
- Masochistic followers (Submissive / Active) on the other hand want to submit and be controlled by authority. These people get pleasure from the pain of active submission. They submit (follow) willingly and enthusiastically, blindly following.
- Withdrawn followers are passive submissives. They will do the minimum required but will not engage actively in the direction of the the organisation or make any decisions. They tend to care little for their work or workplace.
Zaleznik, A. (1965), The Dynamics of Subordinacy, Harvard Business Review, May-Jun 1965