I’ve learned a LOT about leadership while growing my business. I cannot say these have been easy lessons. I’ve probably made every mistake in the book. I’ve been too hands off. I’ve been too rigid. My standards have – at times – been out of reach. In those moments, I’ve let my frustration get the better of me.
I know that there are people who choose leadership roles to boost their ego. Yet, I’ve found that leadership is a profound and often under-appreciated form of service.
This post talks about co-creative leadership, and explores the skills necessary for it. I believe these are skills that become more and more essential in our lives as time goes on.
Co-Creative Leadership and the Power of Engagement
We all need to learn leadership skills. However, how we put those skills to work differs from person to person and from goal to goal. While some people want to command authority, others want to inspire and engage. While some people think of leadership as a solitary act, others see it as a part of a broader group effort.
Co-creative leadership is about engaging others to tackle the task at hand. It’s about facilitating growth and change while accomplishing a shared goal. With your family, co-creative leadership can be used to make a group decision about a family vacation. If you’re a part of a team, it might be used to make a joint decision about when and where you’re going to practice. And, in your business, you might use it to find new ways to be more efficient, so that you have more time to spend with family.
Creatively Contribute to the “Whole”
- In co-creative leadership, you’re not managing people; you’re managing projects. This is a powerful distinction.
The fact is that people don’t need to be managed most of the time. If they need to be managed in the workplace, they might be more of a liability than an asset to your business. If they need to be managed at home, you might be missing an opportunity to empower your children or to partner with your spouse. And, if your friends, colleagues and acquaintances need to be managed, you’re either taking too much responsibility for those around you or you’re not with your peers.
People need to know “why” they’re doing something. This means that they need to support the vision and understand their role. They feel engaged in making contributions to the vision and feel empowered to grow it. This usually happens when people help shape the vision and when they’re put in roles where they’re experts and respected as such.
Changing Yourself to Engage Others
- We cannot facilitate co-creative leadership without first taking a good look at ourselves. What I teach people in my programs is this: if you have an issue, you will keep running into that issue. And leadership magnifies your issues.
So if you’re in a leadership position and experiencing difficulty with the people around you, pause and take stock of yourself. Effective leaders are able to take a candid look at themselves. They have a strong sense of when they’re in integrity and they’re able to make adjustments and apologies for where they’re not. Leaders tend to run into problems when they take too much or too little responsibility for the problems at hand. They also run into problems when they take too much or too little responsibility for the actions of others. As in all other areas of life, leadership demands that we first look at ourselves and assess our contribution to the situation in order to be most effective.
Opening Communication and Bridging Divides
- Communication is a necessary part of any relationship. It becomes particularly important when in a leadership position. A leader must be able to effectively communicate with all parties involved. They must also be able to facilitate communication between individuals and within groups. Communication requires compassion and clarity. It also requires a good measure of personal development work.
Strong communicators have the ability to understand others and use the words necessary to express concepts and plans so that there can be as much engagement as possible. Unfortunately, many people have had negative experiences communicating with others. They’ve had conversations where they did not feel seen, heard, or respected. Because of this, many people do not show up to the conversation. A leader is able to bring everyone to the table, open the channels of dialogue and facilitate involvement. A leader also enables team-members to grow their skills so that they can adeptly handle tasks on their own. This takes a combined effort of personal development enhanced communication skills on the part of the leader.
Creating the Win/Win/Win
- A win/win is a two-sided victory. We need to be willing to create wins for every party involved. As a family, this means that the family trip can’t be just about making the parents happy or the kids happy. In business, this means that we need to think about how what we offer benefits our customers, employees, owners, community, and environment.
Yet, most critical to this aspect of co-creative leadership is the collective development of new ways of thinking about partnership and responsibility, participation and benefit. As leaders, it’s important to put concerted effort towards understanding how things can benefit as many people as possible. When our goal is to support others, we co-create opportunities that have the maximum potential benefit for all involved.