“Organizations are resistant to undertakings that pull them out of their familiar equilibrium. When the leader focuses on an issue and strives to generate urgency surrounding it, the guaranteed first line of defense is for the organization to turn back to the leader for an answer.” -Pascale, Millemann, Gioja via Surfing the Edge of Chaos
This is often the point at which the opportunity for creating capacity erodes…
Leaders have the choice of providing the answer OR having their leadership come under question.
If an answer is provided, the opportunity for learning and capacity-building is wiped away from the process. Ultimately leading to an implementation mindset within the organization, removing any type of commitment or accountability to the process and eventually laying any form of failure at the feet of the leader for taking them down this unwanted path of change. Unfortunately, this is often the path most traveled by most leaders in these circumstances.
We have come to treat leadership as an answer-driven activity. Even though it has proven to have diminishing returns on creating organizational capacity. We have created this answer-loop in most organizations. A problem, issue or challenge is discovered, the organization looks to the leader for an answer, an answer is provided, the organization implements the answer, and the world goes back to normal until another problem, issue or challenge raises its ugly head, and then the process repeats. A repeating process that does more to entrench the status quo than improve the collective capacity of the whole.
However, if the leader determines to take the path less traveled, the one to creating individual and organizational capacity, it must be understood that their leadership ability will be constantly questioned and come under heavy fire. Especially when the answer-implement loop is disrupted.
When leaders not only lead with questions over answers, but allow questions to linger and push the organization into inquiry and require determining their own collective answers to those problems, issues and challenges, it goes against the grain of the answer-implement loop and disrupts the equilibrium of the organization. And while it will eventually lead to greater commitment and internal accountability and capability, in the beginning it will cause deep discomfort and frustration. When answers are not readily given or provided, the organization will begin to grumble and question…
“Where is the leadership around here?”
“Where are the answers we need to these problems and issues that plague us?”
When a leader pushes through these questions that poke at the very foundation of their leadership ability, as well as their ego, when they hold strong to pushing through this barrage of frustration, refusing to provide an answer or accept the first ones hastily given, they put their people on the path to building real depth and collective capacity throughout the organization.
Except, they won’t realize it.
Allowing for disruption of organizational equilibrium in an effort to create organizational capacity requires true servant leadership. For it is understanding, even while taking all of these hits to your leadership ability in an effort to create greater collective capacity, that when collective commitment is garnered, the organization will celebrate with the rally cry of…
“Look what we have done!”
As a leader, you can choose the first path, the one most traveled and be the hero with all the answers. Just understand, organizational capacity will fail to be created, allowing status quo to win out, not to mention the wear and tear on your leadership having to have all of the answers and constantly working to create ‘buy-in’ and commitment to any change process or initiative.
As a leader, you can choose the other path, the one least traveled, the path of the true servant leader to build the organizational capacity that leads to greater commitment and internal accountability. Just understand it will be the heaviest lift you will ever endure, both internally and externally as a leader. However, if you can withstand the pressure to avoid being answer-driven, you can ultimately build up real depth and capacity that cascades across the entirety of the organization.
In the end, you can choose to be a hero OR you can choose to be a servant.
“The unrelenting challenge of adaptive leadership is to manage the level of distress in a way that keeps the entire organization constantly aware that discontinuous results can only be achieved by discontinuous means.” -Pascale, Millemann, Gioja via Surfing the Edge of Chaos