In a previous series of posts I presented the Leadership Enrichment LIFE-cycle (LEL-c) and committed to share more about Leadership Platforms…the ultimate goal of Enrichment. By way of introduction, I want to give credit where it is due. It was my long-time friend and one-time mentee, Lisa Sokolowski, who first gave me the idea.
For months, back in 2000, Lisa actively participated in our mentoring relationship, sharing vulnerabilities; patiently listening and responding to my recommendations regarding leadership development opportunities, which she would regularly act on. She took copious notes and kept a log-book of our time together. She really took it seriously while, at the same time, taking herself lightly. I learned so much from her about this. But that wasn’t what truly changed my thinking about leadership. In a fleeting moment, Lisa asked me whether I had ever attempted to document everything I believed and endeavored to pass on about leadership.
I’ll readily admit, this appealed to my deep desire to leave a legacy of positive change in the world…something I would laughingly refer to as my “legacy complex.” I also have to admit that I knew something of leadership by this time in my professional career, but the idea of a ‘Leadership Platform’ was foreign. I remember looking it up in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary at some point and discovering, in the context Lisa was using the term, that a “platform” can be defined as “the particular policies (guiding principles) and promises supporting a position of authority and/or authenticity, which become the basis of all actions and further provide the opportunity for periodic celebration and ongoing evaluation.” Blended with the term leadership, I quickly began to see the relationship and understand its importance. I remember thinking: “Wow! Lisa is onto something here.” So off I went, not fully realizing what this challenge would require of me, nor that it would ultimately influence my life’s purpose, increase my personal potential and result in the summation of what I value, believe, understand and do as a leader. In retrospect, I owe Lisa an incredible debt of gratitude.
I started off using the accepted architectural body of knowledge, which indicates that every basic platform is comprised of a Footing, Foundation and Framing. This seemed fitting as the blueprint/design for my Leadership Platform:
As commonly understood in the building process, Footings are set in place first and have the important role of preventing the Foundation from settling as weight is placed upon it. When it comes to Leadership Platforms, Footings are based on Vision/ Mission and include the Hallmarks of Assumptions of Trust, Personal Accountability and Warning signs, as well as Espoused Values.
From there, the Foundation is attached. The purpose of any Foundation is to distribute the load. Regarding leadership, it constitutes Goals and Objectives that are stabilized by Guiding Principles and Strategic Priorities.
The last step is to work on the Framing itself. The purpose of good Framing in a Leadership Platform is to provide a safe, sturdy, reliable and level surface upon which to carry the weight of those who choose to follow, and it includes Managerial Properties, Operational Imperatives and Leadership Traits/Qualities.
Pulling it all together, the personal Leadership Platform is built to the design specifications (i.e., features and characteristics) of who the leader endeavors to be and what type of impact they will have on others (see diagram that follows). In this regard, platforms can be built with the best leadership information available. Safe to say, I’ve adopted and incorporated leadership theories, models and styles from a host of great leaders and thinkers over the past 30 years, and you can see some of them reflected in the high-level personal platform illustration above.
When it comes to Organizational Leadership Platforms, it may not surprise you to learn that things aren’t really that different from what was presented about personal Leadership Platforms and we shouldn’t expect them to be. We simply move from addressing leadership at the personal level to addressing it at the organizational level; from measuring the impact of leadership strategies on individuals to measuring the impact on groups and the entire organization (e.g., its culture).
Culture can be defined as the thinking and behavioral styles that might be implicitly or explicitly required for people to “fit in” and “meet expectations” in an organization…the ways in which all members of an organization…are expected to approach their work and interact with one another [Re: Cooke and Szumal, Using the Organizational Culture Inventory® (OCI®) to understand the operating cultures of organizations, Human Synergistics International® (HSI).
I believe HSI has the best Theoretical Model for understanding leadership and its relationship to organizational culture, as well as how it all really works together to produce personal, group and organizational performance (e.g., effectiveness) outcomes. Using the HSI model How Culture Works, here is a basic illustration of the organizational Leadership Platform within the construct of a Footing, Foundation and Framing Blueprint/Design with full design specifications (i.e., features and characteristics):
If you’re familiar with the work of HSI or you’ve had the opportunity to read CultureIMPACT!™, you already recognize the clear Leadership-Culture-Performance connection built into the How Culture Works model. This connection gets hardwired through the impact that founders and senior leaders have on the culture of the organization. As the organization matures, it continues to be impacted by various internal factors that eventually reinforce organizational values, norms and behaviors.
More often than not, there is a difference between the intended and actual impact of senior leaders and, as a result, the Ideal Culture (or what should be expected of members to increase effectiveness) is likely different than the Current Culture (or what is currently expected of members to ‘fit in’ and succeed) [Re: Cooke and Szumal, Using the Organizational Culture Inventory® (OCI®) to understand the operating cultures of organizations]. The need to understand the differences underscores the importance of “strength-testing” both Personal and Organizational Leadership Platform through regular assessment. It is through the process of evaluation that we identify critical differences between our intended and actual impact…between the current and ideal cultures. Only then can we begin to make meaningful adjustments to the Footing, Foundation and Framing as these differences serve to elevate our Awareness, which leads to Learning and kick-starts our next iteration of the LEL-c.
The only thing that awaits is your commitment to Real Leadership! Are You Ready?