Coming together is the beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.
Abundant leadership is a vision for an inclusive, empowering way to better lead and manage teams. It’s about aligning personal, team, and organizational success.
However, it requires the will to ditch outdated behaviors and press the leadership development “reset” button. It’s not about expecting people to fit into the current norms of the hero leader paradigm.
The Forton4D integrated model summarizes the leadership development steps as: Define, Discover, Develop and Deploy. The Forton4D model invites organizations to define the leadership need, discover the rich seam of talent that already exists, develop these people, and support them to succeed back in the workplace.
The Define phase invites the organisation to pause. To stop, look around and find out what’s needed in leadership terms, before leaping into development actions.
In Chapter 1, we looked at the solo leader hero myth and the need for more balanced, inclusive leadership. We explored barriers to developing a high-performing leadership culture. In this zone of discovery, we encourage questions about what kind of leadership the organization needs to be successful. It’s also important to decide where to start—because it may not be with leadership development. Better teamwork or improved employee engagement may be higher priorities.
We explored how current leadership development can create win/lose relationships and undermine the whole organization. We also saw how attention to detail and better leadership matters.
Some of the counter-myths are now becoming mainstream: fewer people now believe the stereotypes, but the challenge is to reach a tipping point.
Real heroes are all around us, because they lead from where they are; let’s set them free to succeed on a bigger scale.
The real challenge of the 21st century is to identify leadership skills within ourselves and support others to develop their leadership capacity too, instead of relying on single, heroic figures and defaulting to someone else’s prepackaged version.
In Chapter 2, we explored different ways to define the leadership development challenge: as puzzle and problem paradigms, focusing on the new paradigm of leadership development, to meet the challenges of VUCA World.
VUCA World is created by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity faced by leaders. It requires a different approach to dealing with the situations they face and a new approach to leader development.
The central myth in this chapter is that the issues facing the organization today are puzzles—with “right” and “wrong” answers. In the puzzle paradigm, it takes just one hero to solve the puzzle, by following the clues. In today’s world, the definitions of challenges aren’t so clear; they’re “problems” with no single answer.
For this, you need more than one person to address the challenge—from the perspective of their individual and collective intelligence, wisdom, and experience.
In Chapter 3, we explored why we still cling to the belief that one cape-clad hero will save the day, despite the fact that we all know it’s a myth. It’s time to throw off the cape and discard its underpinning beliefs, assumptions, and unconscious bias.
The new way of looking at leadership and development requires that we address four key paradigms:
The male over female leader paradigm
The monoculture over diversity in leadership paradigm
The older over younger leader paradigm
These paradigms, in combination, have created an exclusive model of leadership. When shifted, the potential exists to unlock organizational success through the better utilization of all the skills and resources available to it.
And that’s what we mean by “abundant” leadership.
The paradigm needed in today’s VUCA World is abundant, inclusive, engaging, flexible leadership.
We explore these dominant paradigms and the benefits, for organizations, teams, and individuals, of making change. Also under scrutiny is the notion of unconscious bias, which, along with the ego-driven heroic leader, puts up obstacles to the abundant leadership paradigm.
The discovery phase offers new ways of looking at talent selection and contests the practice of recruiting for cultural “fit,” when that may not be what’s needed.
In Chapter 4, we challenged the “war for talent” metaphor and argued instead for a more collaborative approach to recruitment and retention. We discovered the benefits of in-house talent nurturing versus the costs (in time and money) of hiring from outside.
The hero metaphor in this chapter is the myth of the “lone man emerging as victor,” which comes from our attachment to notions of scarcity and the “finite pool” of talent, as well as the addiction to competitive methods of selection, promotion, and recruitment.
The peacemaker encourages conciliation, brings collaboration and favors negotiating, for example, by showing the common ground. The first step in the Discovery phase is to think differently and look beyond today’s recruitment behaviors, by valuing and discovering the talent that already exists.
“What’s the definition of an expert? Someone from a different country”
In Chapter 5, we addressed the myth of the shiny suited outsider and the knight in shining armor and invited you to dig a little deeper into your talent pool. To mine for the gold that already exists in your organisation. We explored the allure of the new, and the risks. It’s easy enough to see why people fall for these myths: They’re enticing and seem to solve our problems in a moment.
It’s not merely that organizations need to take a long hard look at what’s needed; it’s also vital to remove structural barriers to developing the talent you’ve already got.
We also looked at the notion of the wider cultural environment and how that encourages—or deters—the talent pool to step forward. And we addressed the question of when it might make sense to bring people in from outside.
In Chapter 6, we looked a little more closely at team composition, using the metaphor of `filling a vase’ with a range of rocks, pebbles and sand, to represent the `stars’, the managers and the day to day support skills every successful team needs.
Just as coming over as human creates bonds between people, leaders and managers don’t operate in isolation from their teams. This sense of connection reduces personal feelings of loneliness and increases leaders’ chances of success.
We strongly argue that leaders, especially in major turnaround situations, or when the organization needs a new cultural direction, shouldn’t be left alone to deliver but should be supported by the wider organization to succeed.
In the discovery phase, there’s a key myth that only the big guys matter, that it’s the figurehead, rather than the team, who gets the glory. This goes to the heart of the hero myth: sucking the attention and praise, as if one person alone really does all the work. To challenge this, we offer the metaphor of filling a vase: the big rocks, pebbles, grains of sand and water together can best fill the vase. Diversity: of skills and styles, not just culture or race, is a positive benefit to organisations.
In this chapter we also explored approaches that value every member of the team for their diverse contributions, rather than the “zero sum game” of winners and losers. We discussed the need to find reward systems that align more closely to real contribution and avoid “gaming” by people looking to beat the system.
We also looked at the strengths-based approach of leadership development and three ways to encourage the environment needed for people to deliver consistently at their optimum strengths level.
For development activities to be worth their investment, they need to be skills based, change behaviors and be genuinely useful in the workplace. In this section, we explore shifts in thinking about leadership development, for leaders to succeed in VUCA World.
In Chapter 7 we challenge the labeling of empathy, compassion, and collaborative skills as “soft.” In today’s world of work, relationships and communications between people are vital.
Emotional intelligence skills (EQ) are also integral to this environment as they enable us to handle the ambiguity of situations, the uncertainty, and the volatility. And when things go wrong, as they do in VUCA World, the learned skill of resilience helps people recover from the challenges.
The VUCA World leader is also a coach, deploying those relationship and communication skills to bring her team with her; she especially needs to understand and deploy the four themes of high-performance behaviors, specifically identified to address VUCA situations.
Developing leaders isn’t just about teaching or training them, but also about peer learning. We discuss the value of facilitating this peer learning—to demonstrate the connection to the core behaviors underpinning IQ, EQ, and MQ—and then enabling colleagues to apply peer coaching. Chapter 8 goes more deeply into the specifics of leadership behaviors and their adaptability.
Part of the challenge of the hero myth is that leadership development programs currently support that story; it’s a symbiotic relationship that exists only to support the development of heroic leaders. We call this “leadership by lion taming,” and we distinguish it from more practical leadership development that brings out the needed behaviors, strengths, and emotional intelligence required by today’s leaders and managers.
We emphasize the less visible high-performance behaviors too, such as the everyday conversations that support and motivate team members, an essential part of the emotional intelligence cluster of behaviors.
We look at how a coachlike leader can support others to develop themselves and create a wider learning environment. We look at the benefits of tapping into people’s inner values and beliefs and of delivering consistently to our strengths.
Put simply, if we believe in ourselves and see behavior as being consistent with our image of ourselves, we are more likely to apply those behaviors consistently; it’s a virtuous circle.
Having talked about virtue, in Chapter 9, it’s time to look at the shadow side. Leadership is a daily practice; a journey, not a destination. That means we practice, and sometimes fail, to be good leaders. Nobody’s perfect, yet hero figures are expected to succeed, or risk being labeled as “failures.”
It’s vital that we address these attitudes toward failure and the fear of failure.
Doubting ourselves and others plays directly into the zero-sum “lose/lose” mentality. It’s a stagnating feeling that lacks direction.
Failure paralyses and demotivates. Leadership behaviors and styles that empower are what are needed in this new paradigm.
We make a distinction between behaviors and styles. Basing our analysis on emotional intelligence models, we explore the different styles and their values, as well as their limitations.
Finally, because in VUCA World, context is everything, we look at tool selection. Leaders need to select the right tools at the right times. This might mean deploying a particular leadership style or focusing on the right competency area.
It’s no good being a great orator if action is needed. And it’s no good being the all-action hero and jumping into exploits if spending time thinking is a better way forward.
We’ve already talked about the shadow side of dealing with failure, and it’s time to dismiss the notion of leaders as “better” in some way than managers, or other team members.
What we need, in VUCA World, is resourceful enablers who can motivate and inspire others and balance that need with the requirement to get the job done.
In Chapter 10, we support the view that the leadership skill set needs to be introduced and developed in people as early in their careers as possible.
We look at other ways of organizing leadership, such as distributing it among team members or rotating the “leadership” role. In today’s flatter organization structures, this might be a new reward model—giving people the opportunity to feel fulfilled by taking on the responsibility and encouraging higher levels of humility and lower levels of ego-driven power plays.
This is deployment of support at the organizational level—by creating a positive and mature environment for leadership success.
In Chapter 11, we question whether interviews are just an expensive method for looking at people through rose-tinted spectacles. The recruitment process is an expensive one, in terms of time, money, and effort. Interviews alone don’t work, and alternatives are available, including new technologies to improve the diversity of the job advertisement itself and attract a more inclusive range of qualified candidates.
Psychometrics plays a role; the belief in “objectivity” is another myth. Unconscious bias is a big term these days, and we look at ways of harnessing our understanding of unconscious perceptions, to change the recruitment environment.
Becoming conscious of our unconscious preferences is the first step to creating change in this area.
Chapter 12 explores the notion of “well-rounded people” and the desire to iron out the wrinkles, rather than accept sharp individuals who, working together, are willing to make up a well-rounded team.
The hero myth presents a character with caring traits, yet his female allies are typically killed off in the action. It’s very risky to be Superman’s or Spiderman’s girlfriend. It’s as if the late 20th century hero myth wants to “kill off” the hero’s empathy outlet, yet tug at heartstrings and retain the audience’s sympathy at the same time.
We need our leaders to both work at their leadership behaviors and have the character traits of emotional intelligence and flexibility in VUCA World. Most especially, we need them to build “cohesive teams” of leaders, thus increasing leadership abundance.
This calls for different leadership styles, such as a more consultative approach, in which leaders ask others for their input and contribution. It calls for a more coachlike leadership style, to really listen to people’s career aspirations, which is particularly valuable when promotional options are reducing. It calls for more options, such as valuing sideways moves or using corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities to develop leaders, rather than just providing opportunities to go up an organizational ladder.
The tipping point for abundant leadership isn’t going to magically happen. And if those people who have the most to lose from the shift away from solo hero leadership to a wider notion of abundance get their way, it won’t happen at all.
However, younger people, women, and people of color and cultural diversity are impatient to develop. And many organizations do see the value—in financial and human terms—of abundant leadership.
The challenge is to make that change happen, to empower abundant leadership.
It’s about harnessing individual responsibility with structural power; both working harmoniously together. It’s about individuals and institutions aligning with the new leadership paradigm. It calls for supporting work groups such as human resources (HR), change teams, and learning and development (L&D) to work together in support of a working environment and culture that empowers leaders and managers to apply their skills. It’s time to encourage and enable leaders themselves to develop the next generation of leaders, fit for the new leadership paradigms.
When those dynamics are aligned, abundant leadership will happen.
And the beauty of the interactive, digital, and social world in which we now live means that even the solo child walking out of her school to call for change isn’t really alone. She is supported by the power of social media. So even that one person is a part of the more connected, abundant leadership whole.