Monday, February 9, 2009

Leadership at every level

I'm reading a terrific book called Tribes by Seth Godin. It's about leadership from the point of view of: if you have an idea, then get it out there and find others who can help you develop it. It's not about hierarchy or promotions but about finding like-minds and making a difference.

As you can tell from my blog, that's my core philosophy. I am currently focused on the concept of building personal community through mentoring and networking, but the basic principle is the same.

Leadership is everyone’s business. Leadership is more than being the person at the top of a heap (big or small). Leadership is about speaking up and speaking out about what’s working, what’s not and putting up your hand to lead the fix.

Enough folks talk to me about their discomfort or uncertainty around building a community that I started this blog. It was obvious that we needed a place to think about the questions and the effort.

I went a step further and now have a quarterly event in Toronto (post a comment if you want to get on my mailing list for that) where we meet across industries and hierachies to find connections.

I believe we can all lead - by asking questions, by challenging assumptions, by moving our frustration to solutions. And, if no solution is readily available, at least to keep the discussion and activity going.

This is the topic I'm bringing my mentors this week: how do you define leadership? I'm not looking for the tasks involved but the philosophy and bigger behaviours.

1 comment:

Lynn Chambers said...

Hi Dennie,

It was a pleasure meeting you last evening at the Geoffrey Holt talk on the intersection between architecture and leadership. It really struck me when he commented that good leaders are generative in their thinking. I'm the Manager for the BoardMatch Leaders program at Altruvest and the focus of the program is enhancing governance skills and knowledge to strengthen leadership at the board level - the organizational level - and ultimately that of the community.

Last year I had the pleasure of working with Bill Ryan in preparation for our Governance Learning Forum. Bill Ryan co-authored "Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of the Nonprofit Board." The essence of the argument is that those volunteer boards that are not optimizing their performance are suffering from a problem of purpose not necessarily of role clarity as is usually assumed. Boards are generally focused on the fiduciary and strategic work of governing but rarely in the generative mode that so closely relates to the mission of the agency and is often most engaging. Generative thinking is a cognitive approach to sense making - the process of determining what is important, what it means, and what to do about it. Asking these questions in relation to mission fit is an opportunity to practise governance as leadership. Use of the generative mode of governance does not come at the expense of the fiduciary and strategic modes however - rather these modes work in concert with one another. Governance as Leadership reframes how the board approaches their work - it is a way of reconnecting board directors with their leadership potential and is a key aspect of their governing role.