See my images at Zazzle

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Role of Leader and Constraints

I apologize in advance for using a sports metaphor, but it provides useful guidance in the role of the leader in providing direction and guidance to a team. In American football, the leader has to work within the box provided – the yard markers, the out of bounds lines and the end zones and the other people on the team. The leader’s job is to provide sound strategies and communicate observations that the players cannot see from their own vantage point. The leader communicates this in the form of plays, but the leader being from only one vantage point too, knows all plays cannot be called from the sidelines. Some plays need to be called from the huddle, and some while on the line and finally while within the play itself. It would a pointless game if a player while during the execution of the play followed all the direction given by the leader if an opportunity arose and a change to take advantage of the opportunity was not taken.

Not being on the field of play, the leader knows that while he or she is responsible for the overall outcome, the leader is not in control nor has all the information necessary to execute the plays that will allow success.

The leader is a passive influence, and expects players on the field to not only execute the play called but to stay open and react to opportunities that come up and expects that a change in activities on the field will be made should the opposition not react in ways predicted. Of course both parties – leader and player rest on a foundation of the constraints placed on them by the field of play. As such, they pour all their energy, creativity, innovation and muscle into that which they are given. The most successful can be out of the box while constrained within a box. The leader succeeds as a leader by working within a mutually interdependent system, the likes of which he or she only has partial control. The best leaders realize this and respond to the realities of the situation.

What is your opinion on leaders and leadership? I welcome your comments


Greg said...

Well stated, and I am not a sports enthusiast! My past positions were in very collaborative companies where everyone understood the market and each others disciplines. In these environments we were able to grow share because the plans could be changed on the most current stimulus.

My current company is much more paternalistic in nature, where the rank and file wait to hear direction from "on high" before execution. We are currently stagnating in the market as our growth rates do not match the industry. There is not enough time in the day for upper management to analyze multiple competitors across multiple segments to react to the day-to-day changes. It is imperative that lower and middle management act as strategists within their disciplines to guide an organization toward growth.

Mark Pinto said...

This is the danger we run into with the old traditional model...too much work for too few hands. In deference to to leaders and their sincere effort to lead the organization, the advent of new models for leadership has created in the overachieving leader a unifying model for leadership. As a result, the leader fulfills functions for which he or she is not suited and becomes so busy that energy cannot flow through the organization in the form of collaboration and empowerment. Thanks for the great comment.