So what kind of leader are you ? (Pick from the list)

Mike Morrison, Ph.D.

Mike Morrison, Ph.D.

Creating Meaningful Change

July 10, 2022

There are nearly 100,000 books with leadership in the title.  1,000 new titles will emerge in 2022.  We seem to have a huge appetite for the topic . . . but unfortunately . . . we only have incremental gains to show for it (a topic for a future newsletter).

With the endless publishing and proliferation of new leadership concepts, 100’s of “types” of leadership have emerged.

So, what kind of leader are you?

Visionary, ethical, integral, results-oriented, relational, transformational, transactional, purpose-driven, values-based, inspirational, authentic, Level 5, strategic, agile, spiritual, democratic, cultural, servant, dynamic, thoughtful, global, conscious, systemic, faith-based or . . . fill in the blank.

You might feel like you identify with most or all of these themes – since they are all so positive in nature.  Who doesn’t want to think of themselves as authentic, ethical, purpose-driven and inspiring?  You will also notice that each leadership theme has a specific values-orientation.  We would certainly expect different styles of leadership from someone self-described as results-oriented vs. democratic.  They are not mutually exclusive but they are different.

Besides positive, most of these styles seem to be responsive to this new work world we live in — and are well-supported with their step-by-step implementation plans and guiding principles.  But at the end of the day, we simply don’t need more leadership models advocating a specialized path.  It simply adds to the confusion of . . . just what is leadership?  

But don’t get me wrong.  If you are on one of those paths . . . great.  Servant leader?  I love that.  But after more than 20 years of adding to the “leadership confusion” as an educator, coach and consultant (where should I send my apology letter?) – I am finally seeing a simple and natural pathway forward.  It gets to the heart of leadership and can be defined in three words:

Creating meaningful change. 

Think about it.  Managing is making things work well.  It has an internal focus on structure, process and people.  Leadership has an outward focus on effectively adapting to a changing world.  Change is inevitable.  Meaningful change will take some work.

Let’s bring that down to ground level.  To create meaningful change is the on-going process of doing three things very well:

Wayfinding (which way should we go that will serve our larger purpose?)

Sensemaking (what do we need to know . . . truly know?)

Self-developing (how will we need to grow . . . and become the change we seek?)

Whether the change is pedestrian (reducing our budget in support of lagging sales) or strategic (growing new capabilities in a ultra-competitive market), we seek meaning.  It is meaning that pulls us out of our overly reactive, always-on, anxious nature.  It is the pursuit of meaning that unites us, engages us, and sustains us.

In the process, a range of leadership styles may come into play.  Some changes may require a results-orientation while others may require high levels of collaboration.  For any change to be meaningful will require a spirit of authenticity and trust.  We flex to the need of the change . . . with a singular focus on creating meaningful change.

As the leader and the team prepare to embark on the change they envision, the leader pauses and asks:

Have we framed this change in the most purposeful way (wayfinding)?

Does our plan truly reflect a deeper understanding of the challenge (sensemaking)?

Will this positively shape who we will become (self-developing)?

In a work world void of meaning, we don’t need another aspirational view of leadership.  We certainly don’t need leadership prescriptions that are only useful in limited contexts.  The world is changing faster than we are.  We need to get to work on the change that is needed most.

Let’s get going!