Andy Turner was Marketing Director at a major software company.
He was persuasive, heroic and passionate. At times, however, he
became very impatient and demanding. When any of his staff reported
they weren't going to meet schedule he became visibly upset and
demanding. He would publicly admonish them and command them to get
things back on track.
A few years earlier, Andy discovered that demanding got short term
results. Over the next few years he replicated the behavior and
was promoted twice. Fueled by the promotions, the commanding behavior
grew rapidly and so did the unintended consequences. Many in his
group became fearful and resentful. No one wanted to be in his cross
hairs. As a result, they began acting more out of self preservation
than a desire to make big things happen. The resentments were also
blurring their perceptions of Andy's strengths. Many could no longer
see his other leadership competencies like persuasiveness, drive,
enthusiasm, encouragement and camaraderie.
Andy's issue is a common one shared by many leaders regardless
of their style. At some time in their career, they become over-identified
with a particular role, mind-set or 'success strategy' and as a
result they over use it.
His "Commander" 'success strategy' made him a bigger and
better leader for a while but it's over use and excesses paradoxically
made it now too small for him. Andy needed to dis-identify from
and get bigger than his "Commander." He needed to discover
a deeper sense of "I-ness"-an inner Director that could
manage his "Commander."
Leadership as a Stage Play
To facilitate the discovery of a deeper sense of "I-ness,"
I asked him to consider leadership as a stage play. In this leadership
play, people can create and direct a cast of leadership characters
or roles for different situations. It is really quite easy. Everyone
already has an inner cast of semi-autonomous roles- characters or
selves that they play as they move throughout their day. Andy readily
recognized that he is different with his boss than with his subordinates;
different with his kids than with his peers; different when presenting
in front of people. I asked him to make a list of the different
roles or selves that make up his personality. Andy identified some
of his roles as "Manager," "Presenter," "Salesman,"
"Techy," "Doer," "Commander," "Marketeer,"
"Politician," "Subordinate," "Husband,"
"Father" and "Poker Player." Each of these selves
are adaptive "success strategies" organized to satisfy
needs in a particular situation, context or environment. They are
some of his many different ways of being and doing.
When he identifies with one of these roles his sense of I-ness
becomes embedded in the role virtually unnoticed. The role becomes
the central aspect of who he is in the moment, determining how he
perceives reality. For example, when he is identified with the role
of "Techy" and says "I believe
" he is
reasoning from his beliefs in the role of "Techy" and
not as "Marketeer," "Politician," "Salesman,"
"Father," "Poker Player" or any other role he
plays. And when identified as "Techy," the knowledge,
beliefs and values that shape perception and behavior are often
different from the other roles. From this perspective, Andy was
able to dis-identify from his "Commander" and talk about
it as if it were another person. He recognized the abusiveness and
wanted to learn how to direct it. Andy was discovering his inner
Director and was now ready to organize a cast of roles for leadership.
I asked him about the secret to his success as a "Poker Player."
He told me, "I am very cool, calm and detached. I don't get
upset or rattled." Bingo, I thought. Then, I asked him, "What
if you could bring the detached mind set of your Poker Player to
your leadership? What if, when your upset Commander begins to take
over you could take on the mindset of your Poker Player and quickly
let go of the upset." Over the next month Andy learned how
to do just that. He continued to discover his inner Director and
became more conscious of the feeling, thinking and behavior of his
"Commander" and "Poker Player." When he recognized
he was getting frustrated about something not being done, he would
become his "Poker Player." He was learning how to step
back to his inner Director and view the situation as a stage play.
From this perspective he could consider what leadership role, including
his "Commander" less the upset, would best fit the situation.
Over the next several months Andy became more agile and adaptive
as a leader. Using the metaphor of leadership as stage play he went
on to develop or refine other leadership roles like "Talent
Scout," "Collaborator," "Visionary," "Coach"
and "Thought Leader." One year later Andy was promoted
to VP of Marketing in another division of the company.
The Banker and Musician
Other leaders have discovered their inner Director in a similar
way. Al Ross, VP of a major international bank, had a highly analytical
and detached management style. He was also an emotionally engaging
"Musician" on the weekends. As the "Musician,"
Al was passionate and knew how important it was to connect with
the audience and work as a team. Al transformed his leadership by
adding his "Musician" to his leadership cast. He was more
passionate, connected with people, celebrated the small successes,
publicly recognized people and encouraged teamwork. Al got extraordinary
results. In six months, Al's department reduced the average work
time per service transaction by 40% while reducing staff 11% in
the face of a 43% increase in volume. The department's customers
were so impressed that they spontaneously started writing letters
to senior management. Al's "Musician" perfectly complemented
his highly analytical style and enabled Al to lead with chemistry,
passion, detachment, analysis and bottom line reasoning. Not long
afterward, Al was promoted and asked to perform his "leadership
magic" in several new major acquisitions.
Both Andy and Al transformed their leadership and became more agile
and adaptive by viewing leadership as a stage play and discovering
their inner Director. In the process, they evolved their consciousness
and came to view their personalities as instruments and vehicles
of expression that they could orchestrate for leadership effectiveness
in different situations.
Peter Stonefield, BSEE, MA, PhD. is President of
Stonefield Learning Group, consultant, psychologist and author of
Managing Innovation and numerous articles. He was an electronic
engineer, marketing director and sales executive for the Bunker-Ramo
Corporation. He has successfully completed over 150 consulting engagements,
created more than 20 different training and development programs
and coached over 100 executives. He has facilitated the development
of 10 knowledge leveraging "Communities of Practice" in
engineering and marketing organizations. His client list includes
Apple Computer, Baxter Laboratories, Dow Chemical, Hewlett Packard,
IBM, Intel, US Government, PPG and Sun Microsystems. He was the
principal consultant to the winner of the President's Quality Award
for Managing Change.