Sunday, April 27, 2008

Leadership Domain & Leading By Smiling

There are two main, interrelated pillars that lie at the heart of the Leadership Landscapes approach. The first is an image of a landscape. Imagine you are perched on a vista (“your job”) looking out across the peaks and valleys. What you might notice first is the big picture, or the macro-business landscape, which reveals how you and your organization relate to society and the world at large. Typical focal points here are sustainability, emerging technologies, political systems, non-governmental organizations, the broader regulatory environment, social responsibility, environmental concerns, social (im)balances, and so on. Increasingly these macro-factors include the global economy and the planetary environment, and these mountains in the background will have a tremendous business impact, yet are often less immediate than the sharper peaks and valleys of the industry and markets landscape. Here we find challenges that relate to our direct external business context, such as demanding customers, changing markets, shifting competition, and our most direct stakeholders (e.g. investor relations).
Yet according to our research, few leaders dwell long on the lofty heights, because they are pulled into the morass of the organization landscape. This landscape mainly deals with issues of organizational concern, such as how we govern, how we attract and distribute resources, how we org-chart our people, how we setup, maintain, and live our culture and values, and how we keep the organization aligned and informed. Subsequently, there are bands of brothers and sisters on the team landscape who require our attention. This is where we manage the team, steer it, chair meetings, do appraisals, oversee recruitment and personal development, and improve team performance. Finally, we come to the nearest environment, the indi­vidual landscape, which involves the time spent on our own devel­opment and learning, reflection, coaching, meditation, and other activities that help maintain and strengthen our physical and mental health.
These five landscapes cover the areas where “leadership attention” is typi­cally spent. Most leaders falter by concentrating on a single landscape, often the organizational landscape, at the expense of others. Worse yet, leaders are often taught only to understand a single landscape, denying them the ability to see the wealth of factors and interconnections that could underpin their decision making. The Leadership Landscape Approach is different because it encourages sensitivity to the entire landscape.

Our first pillar, the Leadership Landscapes Perspective, allows you to look across all the lead­ership levels simultaneously and expand your relational field of vision. It creates a context for decision making. Yet a backdrop is worthless if it is not accompanied by an attitude, a state of equanimity. In other words, a leader needs to maintain a state of dynamic balance.
The equanimity shift, the second pillar of the Leadership Landscapes Perspective, represents a comprehensive view on an attitude of mind. It is an attitude that can be developed, nurtured, and practiced. It is the idea of equanimity – an approach that underpins all we advocate in Leadership Landscapes. It may at first seem like an abstract or vague notion, and it is in some sense elusive, but we have found it to be the key to optimal leadership.
Equanimity, or dynamic balance, can be described in at least five aspects. These aspects form an integrated set, in which none is as powerful alone as when connected to the others. Everyone possesses some measure of equanimity, and that measure can be increased through practice. Like a muscle in the body, equanimity gains strength through a combination of everyday use, exertion in meeting chal­lenging circumstances, and practices directly targeted at its development. Just as muscles work in sets, so equanimity can be seen as a bundle of attributes with multiple applications. The five attributes of equanimity are: An Eye for Possibility; Reframing; Presence; Recovery; and Commitment. Through mastery of these five areas, leaders learn to maintain balance while applying these tools to decision-making, inspirational leadership, and peak performance.
When the Leadership Landscapes perspective and the equanimity shift are used in tandem, they form a powerful tool for any leader desiring mastery of his or her craft. In our book we offer tools, such as inquiry and scenario mapping, that show how to apply the Leadership Landscapes perspective to emergent problems and how to develop sustained practices that hone your abilities as a leader.

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