I’m leading a new team on an effort to arrive at an approved strategy for work critical to our organization. So, what are we to do? More directly, what am I to do as the team leader to get us started?
For guidance, I look to the leadership model of alignment, action, and results, about which I wrote in my previous blog entry. OK, the approved contract strategy represents the result we want. Check. Next, the key question to ask is, “why does this result matter to us, both individually and organizationally?” For that, we can look inward to our personal values and how they align with the mission of the organization. Alignment. That is another of the three elements of leadership. Check number two.
The alignment and result do not exist in a vacuum. For the situation my team and I face, our alignment and the result we seek exist within a framework of regulations and expectations of policy and decision-makers external to the team. Within that framework exists the freedom for innovation and creativity to choose our own path of actions necessary to achieve the result. Action. Element number three. And there we have it – alignment, action, and result. Checkmate.
Or is that really it?
When I consider the leadership model of alignment, action, and result applied in an unfamiliar context with a new team, I feel some uncertainty. (What is an “approved contract strategy”, anyway?) So far, it feels like a struggle to identify the alignment of everyone and the necessary actions to undertake to achieve the result, if all even agree upon the result in the first place. I’m feeling that now with my team. Maybe I’m just impatient, but I can’t help but wonder, “what is missing?”
Ever since I first encountered, embraced, and applied the alignment, action, and result model of leadership, I watch for it in action around me. Often I see it quite easily. I also noted situations where leadership failed because one or more of the elements of the model were missing. Yet despite the obvious successes and failures I observed, I find that I still struggle to put the model into practice when I’m dealing with a context of uncertainty. Sure, I can identify my values and how they align with the mission of the organization. I usually can identify compelling, measurable results, and can envision achieving them through a series of actions. Yet each of these seem to float in space, separate, and unrelated to each other. What are the ties that bind?
Recently, I found a glimmer of hope – a possible next step on my journey of discovery. This is still a work in progress, clearly, yet I see tremendous potential in what I am about to introduce.
I encountered works of Joe Jaworski and David Bohm that indicate how I might find “the ties that bind.” The foundation is rooted in quantum physics and some rather bizarre yet profound implications from discoveries made over the last few decades. In particular, one that I recall from my own schooling in quantum theory pertained to the EPR paradox as an illustration of how quantum mechanics violates classical intuitions. In the EPR thought-experiment, a measurement at one end of a quantum mechanical system immediately tells the observer the state at the other end of the system, which seemingly violates the “no signal can travel faster than the speed of light” law. Bohm extends the multi-dimensional quantum world proposed solution to the EPR paradox into the everyday world via connections and dialogue. In his view, everything is connected to everything else. Through these connections and the dialogue of people with each other, we are a part of and participate in the emerging reality that constitutes the unfolding of the universe. There is a lot more to explore with regards to Bohm’s work, yet just this little bit offered a path of hope for the leadership model in my current situation.
If I consider the three elements of the leadership model as vertices of a triangle, I can envision connections that tie together the elements of the leadership model into the means for the team to participate fully in the unfolding of the universe. A team, through dialogue, can share individual values and establish the shared vision that forms the cohesive alignment of individuals into the single alignment of the team. Again, through dialogue, the team can decide upon the actions necessary to create the compelling result desired. The team can identify and rally around the agreed-to common goal. Good start.
Next is to provide the connections between the vertices of the model, which serve as the conduits through which the universe unfolds. The connection from alignment to action is through commitment–in words and in deeds–of the team rooted in its alignment, galvanizing itself and others around it to action. Through action, we connect to the results we seek by participating in (“actualizing”) the emerging reality. Finally, the results connect back to our alignment through the larger sense of purpose, or “grand will,” we feel, sense, or believe in that gives meaning to our participation in the unfolding of the universe. This also has a feel of “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” which gives me further encouragement that I’m onto something here.
Alignment, action, and results, connected together by the commitment, actualization, and larger sense of purpose of the people involved…. I see revisiting this topic again as I delve further into the works of Bohm, and allow for more time for my team’s particular corner of the universe to unfold. More to come, soon!
(Many thanks to Pam Fox Rollin for providing the encouragement to me to share this piece. Thanks, Pam!)