I have given a great deal of thought on what leadership strategies and styles drive disruptive and positive innovation and transformation in an organization, a community, or an industry. This web site will present my insights on this question.
However, I would summarize my current thinking this way:
Great leaders have an overarching vision. I attempt to achieve this goal by focusing on individual empowerment, and by insuring that we have checks and balances against the natural tendency of individuals to aspire to lead organizations, communities, governments, and industry groupings and to concentrate power to accomplish their goals. Declining to centralize power is challenging, but it is necessary to empower the people that we lead.
Great leaders who orchestrate positive, disruptive, innovative change bring an outsider’s perspective. However, they align with insiders who help them navigate through what is needed to change the status quo. The “experts” and “players” on the inside are allies, but not prime movers, of change, because they are too wedded to retaining the rules from which they have profited. Leaders respect experts, but do not blindly defer to them.
The most effective disruptive leaders use the least visible, highest impact levers for change, except in the rare cases in which there is a “burning platform” in which change is expected and welcomed. Visible disruptive change draws ferocious resistance. Less visible, more poorly understood actions with big consequences draw less resistance.
Great leaders operate with an “invisible hand.” The Donald Trump style of leadership works when there is the “burning platform,” which is a small minority of situations. “Stealth” leadership styles work better when organizations, communities and industries are deeply entrenched.
Great leaders find common ground and try to use what Dean Roger Martin of the Rottman School of Business calls the “opposable mind” strategy: aspiring to achieve seemingly incompatible goals. Leaders who take sides on behalf of one point of view versus opposing points of view usually minimize their effectiveness by creating and battling unnecessary adversaries.
Great leaders are most effective when others claim the credit and believe that it was their ideas that prevailed. We celebrate leaders who are explicitly identified with great achievements without realizing that they often benefited from a combination of environmental conditions that enabled them to succeed when others doing the identical things under different circumstances failed. However, the inspired, great leaders create or, at a minimum, anticipate or spot the combination of conditions that make change possible and act at the right time with the right resources.
Great leaders recognize that the obstacles to transformative change often boil down to how individuals feel that they will win or lose under the new set of rules, and minimize the perceived impact on the “losers.” Great leaders focus on major reform initiatives as change management challenges most focused on eliminating fear, as opposed to overcoming substantive reasons for opposition.
In this web site, I will frequently discuss and present leadership examples and models that are based on
Low visibility, high impact initiatives,
“Stealth change management,”
Reconciling and achieving seemingly incompatible goals, and
Focusing on change management as well as substantive responses on issues.
To be an “outside-in” thinker requires someone who purposely resists getting settled in one place and in one position, but remains open and willing to accept the discomfort of always being an outsider to some degree. That describes me perfectly, and I will show how it has contributed to my successes and failures.
My Partners & Resources
More Effective Use of Government Power
Eliminating bureaucratic government and empowering government officials to do their job
Capitol Region Council
Elaine Kamarck, Harvard and Brookings Institute
Regional Plan Association
Philip Howard, Common Good
Making government better at improving the quality of life of its citizens
Patricia McGinnis Center for Excellence in Government
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