More about "Leading Through Complexity"

"The dangers of exercising leadership derive from the nature of the problems for which leadership is necessary… To lead is to live dangerously because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear -- their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking -- with nothing more to offer perhaps than a possibility. Moreover, leadership often means exceeding the authority you are given to tackle the challenge at hand. People push back when you disturb the personal and institutional equilibrium they know. And people resist in all kinds of creative and unexpected ways that can get you taken out of the game: pushed aside, undermined, or eliminated."
       Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky, Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading

Program Objectives and Audience

The essential leadership practices of communicating an inspiring vision, empowering others, aggressively pursuing innovation, and leading by example are now the price of entry into organizational leadership – they are table stakes for executive roles.

I design and facilitate programs that provide a framework and a set of tools for executives who lead challenging initiatives in environments that have high and sustained levels of complexity, ambiguity, uncertainty, and unpredictability. These programs give executives a solid grounding in how to apply the framework and tools to increase their capacity to lead effectively in a highly complex world.

The most successful participants for learning in this type of program are division or business unit leaders responsible for translating broad organizational strategy into strategic objectives and initiatives within their realm of concern. Equally importantly, they are genuinely interested in their own leadership development and would value a retreat experience focused on themselves as leaders.

See MY APPROACH for more discussion of the skills and knowledge that leaders develop in these programs.

Content and Structure

Typically, these are cohort programs delivered over 6-12 months that integrate learning events and coaching, and are focused on real business challenges as the context for learning. The programs draw heavily on the interactive engagement of the participants. An outline of some of the main elements follows:

Introductions: to people and to the implications of leading businesses under conditions of complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity.

Adaptive v. Technical Change: introduces the distinctions between Adaptive and Technical challenges and how a different form of leadership is called for to address adaptive challenges.

Business Challenge Workgroups: small groups of participants use structured processes to help each other identify and understand the complexities of their business challenges, and support one another in their actions and experiments.

Immunity to Change: explores the work of Harvard professor Robert Kegan that focuses on how we construct reality and the inherent limitations of established ways of thinking; offers a pathway into dealing more effectively with critical behavior change.

The Self as Subject: personal stories of one's unique leadership journey, including one's leadership strengths and challenges for adaptive leadership.

Plan for Experiments: develop hypotheses and plan experiments to learn about the nature of the changes required in one's self and in the system.

System Mapping: identify the interests and agendas of stakeholders and constituents with the goal of seeking outcomes that produce win-win results. 

The Productive Energy in Conflict: skills to engage the positive energy that lies in conflict and that often remains underutilized as long as conflict remains unproductively hidden or avoided.

Polarity Management: a structured and readily applied process for managing personal and organizational dilemmas such as centralized/de-centralized, short-term tactics/long-term strategies, consistency and standardization/innovation and agility, and honor the culture/create the future.

Enlarging the Scale of Influence: skills to increase the scope of influence around the adaptive challenge from the individual to the business unit, and beyond to the organization and larger environment.

Using Authority Effectively in the Face of Adaptive Challenges: understand the constraints and resources of authority and find appropriate and powerful ways to use authority effectively in the territory of adaptive leadership.

Mindfulness: develop practices for staying balanced, proactive, and strategic in disturbing times.


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