“Huge reviews from the programme – lots of your work in the final presentations and everyone very enthused by your contribution.”
— HR Director in high technology manufacturing business
There is broad agreement that effective leadership – and hence leadership development – is critical to the successful delivery of organizational change and performance. At the same time, views of what that means in practice vary widely! In essence, we agree with Professor Ralph Stacey that, “Managing and leading are exercises in the courage to go on participating creatively despite not knowing”.
This state of “not knowing” arises from the hidden, messy, and informal dynamics of everyday human interaction. So understanding and engaging with this unavoidable ‘wiggliness’ of organization is fundamental to managers’ ability to realise their leadership agenda. This means that our characteristic informal coalitions perspective on the real-world dynamics of organization provides a distinctive input to all of the leadership development programmes, workshops and briefings that we design, deliver or contribute to.
The Conversations are the work
The central proposition of our approach to leadership development is that, for leaders, the conversations are the work.
This sees the fundamental leadership task as being to:
- connect to the natural conversational networks, through which people are making sense of emerging events and ‘acting into’ the future
- tune-in to the themes that are organizing people’s thoughts and actions, and
- seek to shift the patterns of perception, interpretation, evaluation, and behaviour in what they judge to be organizationally beneficial ways.
Primary Focus of Attention
An important principle in our thinking is that leadership is not an elite practice, limited to a chosen few managers. It emerges at many places as a natural property of people’s ongoing interactions. At the same time, the actions of those people who are in formal leadership positions – from CEOs to first-line supervisors – have a particularly powerful influence on what emerges in practice. And they are charged with the specific task of exercising leadership on a continuing basis. So their needs provide the primary focus for our leadership development and leadership coaching work.
Enabling people to excel
The central theme of our wiggly world view of organization and informal coalitions approach to change leadership is that change and performance happen through people’s everyday conversations and interactions. It occurs as they jointly make sense of what’s going on and act into the emerging future. Another important focus of our approach to leadership development is therefore on how we might help to shift the conversations towards ones based on enabling people to excel.
A wide range of formats have been used to date, including formulation of, and/or contribution to, leadership development programmes, one-off workshops, executive briefings, and management seminars. The principal areas of focus have been on:
- enhancing the performance and capability of senior management teams – identifying and developing their value-adding role, and stimulating dialogue around team effectiveness
- developing capability in change leadership, both as part of live change projects and as a central element of wider leadership development programmes
- shifting the focus of leadership practice away from an emphasis on controls, constraints and compliance, towards actions aimed at enabling people to excel.
“Chris Rodgers was knowledgeable and respectful of others’ comments. It made a welcome change not to have a patronising lecturer! It was great to have time to debate and discuss some practical ‘how tos’.”
— Senior public sector manager