Interpersonal Accountability

Assignment 10.1B – 3 Blog Posts

What affects a leader’s capability to speak their truth? One may find this question vague, as the answer could be found in so many places, and in so many things. However, this question begs more than simply “their weaknesses” or “their context”- it examines the true nature of leadership within the contexts of interpersonal accountability. In the same way that the well-known anecdote regarding falling trees and the verification of sound, is the impact of a leader’s actions valid unless verified by the follower?

This week I was delighted to find that Neil Crofts had posted something recently – as his most contemporary post was from several months ago. In true vulnerability he admitted his desires to remain apolitical in his blog postings, and in doing so neglected to update his thoughts. It was only when two readers approached him separately did he come to understand that regardless of his political feelings on the matter, his followers expected his words to continue to flow forth. He offered this inspiring perspective regarding the current political climate, where the power of the interpersonal leaders of the world continue to have the responsibility to push forward. He reminds us that “every country gets the leadership they deserve, and if they don’t like it, its up to us to do something about it.”

 Zen Habits Leo Baubata surprisingly backed this cry for interpersonal accountability with an account of an exercise performed in a community context. Competition, in this context, is when his brother holds the space and accountability for Leo to reside in that-which-is-uncomfortable, to notice when his mind is trying to run from the current moment. Really, to run from pain. The two of them held space for each other to reside there, to continue to reside there, to exhibit the courage for the sake of each other, and to exude a sense of vulnerability rare in two men “competing”. They pushed themselves forward, together.

Never to be disregarded, CultureSync maintains similar perspectives through their pre-defined tribal striations, reminding readers that Stage 3 tribes stand to gain so much more if they move past general spewing of expertise in favor of collaboration. Using the example of Mount Everest with all its concomitant experts, CultureSync outlines interpersonal accountability as the foundation of lasting cultural change. For Fender, it was reframing the “why” of the company that began the snowball into cultural synchronicity. 

In light of these life-giving readings, I’m reminded of what is needed in the cultural climate today. I’m sure it is easy (like me) for most to stay indoors, in their jobs and their places in their current lives and forget that there are larger landscapes and struggles. Neil Crofts outlines this as “The First Maturity War”, and arguably, this cannot be something we ignore. If the world could be run by Stage 4 leadership, how much better would it be to go to work? How much more fulfilled would we feel? And, more concurrently, how much could we accomplish, together?

Tribal Leadership | 3 Blogs

Week 7

This week in Creative Leadership we touch base with my chosen thought leaders in my journey to becoming an effective, emergent leader within the context of Tribal Leadership.

Diving deeper into the amalgams of Neil Croft’s annals of work, “What is Truth?  unpacks environmental repercussions of truth and lies within company culture. He discusses the need to take a look at honesty as a skill, with which we can get better at with some practice, both from the perspective of how to default to honesty and how to deal with lies. Much of truth is subjective, meaning there will often be legitimate perspectives on any situation and understanding the boundary between what is subjectively true and what is subjectively untrue can be a “question of perspectives or differences between values”. Disagreement, in this case, does not mean lies. Really, in this context, “Being honest is an exercise in constant self analysis, to calibrate our observations against our emotions and express our views more as questions or explorations than as statements”. Neil Crofts goes on to state that the best way to measure someone’s contribution to the group is through their level of honesty. If a person is more honest, listens more, and demonstrates empathy, they are less likely to lie.

In CultureSync’s blog, Carrie Kish’s post, “Your Leadership Brand”, takes tribal leadership and brands the experience, equating reputation with workplace culture. She challenges that leader’s most important assets are their reputations, because “research consistently shows that people only follow those whom they admire or respect”. The bad news is leaders do not own their own reputation, the community does. She goes on to outline what a reputation audit can do for a company – asking questions such as “what can you count on me for?”, “what can you not count on me for?”, “what advise do you have for me?”, and “is there anything else?”. From a format of radical honesty and vulnerability, Carrie submits that the best way to build a culture’s internal assets, you create value within your workplace culture.  

Zen Habit’s Leo Babauta is at it again with his zen approach to the ever present if-then statements programmed into our head, with “The Ultimate Productivity, Simplicity, Finance, Happiness, and Weight Loss Hack”. He reiterates his hallmark of “letting go” as the means to understanding why we can’t manage to get what we want – whether it is productivity, simplicity, finances, happiness, or weight loss. The answer to Leo is “letting go of the should”, loosening the grasp of the inevitable, so that we can enjoy the present.  

Contextualizing these leadership blogs with my reading in Tribal Leadership, I’m reminded that folks that reside in Stage 2 and 3 of Tribal Leadership are caught in loops of negativity that prevent them from rising into Stage 4 and 5. Honesty and lying are a huge measure of whether or not a workplace culture is performing the way that they should to help each other commit to a “we’re great” mentality. Crofts explains it succinctly in “What is Truth?”

“These individuals perceive everyone else as being engaged in the same dog eat dog competition, a brutally Darwinian interpretation of society.  Either being honest is not one of their values, so they experience no shame when they are caught out or they have a facility to rationalise any situation entirely subjectively and in their own interests.”

In CultureSync, attracting Stage 4 leaders and tribe members to your group isn’t easy – it resides on whether or not you as a leader are cultivating your biggest asset, your reputation. Without your reputation, you are bound to remain at Stage 3, or worse Stage 2. Leo, in his round about way, talks about an internal view for this reason. By echoing the same sentiment Carrie mentions in her post, and the consistent need for self reflection in the assessment of dishonesty in the workplace, Babauta gives a simple framework within which individual reflection can happen – for the culture shift to begin with you.

I have been greatly enjoying the lenses within which Creative Leadership can blossom, and how all these disparate thought leaders come together to create a larger, synchronized discourse surrounding collaboration.   

Comparisons of Leadership - A Primer

Week 2

Unpacking, describing, and studying leadership traits across leaders is difficult without a benchmark. In narrowing leadership style to a handful of leaders, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Richard Branson, Desmond Tutu, and Madeline Albright,  it becomes easier to differentiate styles of leadership and their development. Former South African President Nelson Mandela was an anti apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist, dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalized racism and fostering racial reconciliation. His leadership style is compared to the traditional African style of leadership comparinghis followers to cattle – mainly that he leads from behind and guides his followers towards a conclusion.  South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu described Mandela as a servant of the people – not in it for his own aggrandizement, but leading on behalf of his people. Barak Obama, former President of the United States, channeled his leadership style from a sense of embodied power – he removed the gap between his “public” person and his “private” person.  In other words, he derived his leadership from an authenticity that created resonance with his followers. Founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson has always been an entrepreneur, beginning his legacy at 16 with a magazine called Student. Branson, in his interview at the London Business Forum in 2008,  describes his leadership style as one that is open to his followers. Prioritizing relationships, opening full social strata communication organizationally, and creating personal value for his followers, Branson is also an example of leadership style that is decentralized, dispersing power to the employees at this command.

Following up on this stacked male leadership case study, Madeline Albright provides insight to leadership styles for women in a predominantly masculine fields. The first female secretary of state cites that social barriers are the primary barrier to effective leadership – her role models were admittedly male, but when discussing leadership with gender, the largest priority for her was to build her female counterparts up. By removing the “Queen Bee” complex, and thus the competition, Albright stresses that leadership can be something women can do for each other, to build each other up. This unification strategy, though focusing on women’s rights, echos the similar sentiments purported by Obama, Mandela, and Branson, as the collective power is greater than the individual. 

Taking a step back and unpacking the salient points regarding effective leadership across these materials, we see many things highlighted from trait and behavioral theory – eg. the traditional African style of “herding” from Mandela, a sense of theatricality with Obama embodying power, flexibility and the ability to usher conflicting sides to a cause as denoted by Albright and Branson. The material discussing Richard Branson’s approach to leadership unpacks more behaviors and traits – the ability to have everyone that he is leading feel important from every level, the notion of leading with both hearts and hands, being a good listener, the leader as a servant… all idealized soft skills of a good leader in the idealized form.

What’s both interesting and tough when looking at and comparing styles of leadership between Barack Obama and Mandela is the continuation and reliance on traditional leadership archetypes to make sense of contemporary leadership today. Traditional studies on traits espousing to breed “the most effective leaders” as dictated by thought-pioneers in leadership focus on commonalities that still tie back to “The Great Man” theory of leadership. On the surface, this theory is masculine, supports heroism in the face of adversary, requires the leader to have validated his power in some capacity by a demonstrable journey that gives the person experiential power to empathize with the masses. Take this a step further, and this theory starts to read a lot like the Anglo-Saxon definition of the Christ figure – martyr, humble, representative and absolver of sins. Being that these figures, with the exception of Mandala, are from a country where Christianity permeates the cultural group think, it isn’t surprising to see where the discussion garnered its trait and behavioral value system. It isn’t so much that I’m questioning the validity of leadership born from hardship, or that there is a problem with heroism and leadership being garnered from Christian ideology. What I would like to take a look at is how leadership can move away from these concepts entirely. What do other religions doto embody and assign power? What are matriarchal forms ofleadership? Are these truly universal – the traits of leadership? What kind of buy in do we need from followers to accept a different way of leading?

As we begin to decentralize power – the distribution of authenticity becomes a type of leadership that gives some rules dictating how things should be run, but is by no means prescriptive. In the New York Business article, Leading Clever People, Rob Geoffee and Gareth Jones speak to this change in leadership. With what we call as the 1099 culture, the independent contractors are changing how we think about job opportunities, the economy, and the exchange of value. Gone are the days we have looked to leaders to provide security – the advent of technology brings the power to a truly democratized level where the follower has the power to change and lead in her own sphere, in her own capacity. Where, then, does leadership stand? Is it a dictator, leading the vulnerable? Or is it the freelancer, knowing their worth and pushing the value of the job market to reflect his expertise?

Economies of value are changing, and so is leadership.

Blog post by Theresa Akers, MASD Candidate