Leadership in Chaos                                                                    Photo Credit-courtesy of Scoop.it

Texas Church Shooting Leadership Lessons

As a generation Xer, there used to be a time when as an elementary school girl, I walked 10 miles from home to school, in the busy streets of a major city, walked back home, stopped by on the way home, bought a snack from my favorite snack shop with my money in my pocket for snacks, and got myself home with my own key to the house. I enjoyed the freedom and safety of learning, experiences and autonomy, as I grew in a very metropolitan and crowded city. Now, as a mom, I would not dream of having my children at 8 and 10 walk outside past our own street. We drive to most places during the week for school and extracurricular activities, and on weekends for events and fun outings. Driving, in my car gives me a sense of safety and security. However in reality, this is just an illusion. The truth is, the world has changed. Life has changed.   And in spite of the advents of technology, flooding of products from all over the globe, going well beyond meeting our basic needs, safety is in fact just an illusion.

 

Last weekend, on Sunday Nov. 5th, there was yet another horrific event that took place in our country. A shooting at a Texas church, killing 26 people, as young as 5 years old. That could have been any of us. There was a time where, churches similar to schools, were considered a sanctuary for people. Not anymore. Chaos is all around us, and as much as we want to ignore, blame, and shout at it, it is inevitable. It is in our homes. It is at our place of work. And it is even at our “sanctuaries”.

On a daily basis, the global economy, the growth of the population, and technology among many other variables continue to change the way our daily businesses are conducted.

Evidence of chaos is even more visible in the world of commerce and business as venture capitals, leverage buyouts and government bailouts continue to become the norm and layoffs ensue. There was a time when businesses could succeed as stable, bureaucratic and regulating institutions. The didactic, structure oriented processes were considered a key to performance and success. Involuntary Turnover and job loss were uncommon phenomenon.  In fact, the belief in order and structure crated the false notion that reorganizations were the key to productivity. Up to today, reorganizations are still very popular with the C-Suite. It has been found that nearly half of all CEO’s execute a reorganization within the first two years they join an organization. Regardless of the “reason”, these reorganzations are usually about immense structural changes in hope for better performance. In reality, according to a Bain & Co. study, out of the 57 reorganizations they studied, only one-third produced results; a profound mistake to completely buy-in to the idea that there is a link between structure and performance.

 

Beginnings of Chaos

Chaos Theory, which was most fully explored and recognized during the mid-to-late 1980s, has the premise that systems sometimes reside in chaos, they are constantly moving, but without any predictability or direction. According to Margaret J. Wheatley in Leadership and the New Science, “Chaos is the final state in a system’s movement away from order.” According to her, when a system does reach that point, the parts of a system are manifest as turbulence, totally lacking in direction or meaning.

When Chaos Theory was first implemented in to businesses in various forms, organization management also gave way to organization management. Agile methodologies were introduced as a way for modern corporations to be able to respond as markets expanded and technologies evolved.  And the evolution of high-functioning teams gave life to Members of effective teams to frequently recreate their roles depending on the needs of the team at a given point.

Embracing change therefore does not mean to necessarily try and predict every possibility and structure the organization accordingly to reach order. It is to lead with the idea that change is constant and chaos is the way of life.

Leadership Redone

When it comes to leadership, as a Human Capital Partner to Fortune companies and Leadership Coach to the C-Suite, I have worked with organizations to recognize that leadership in today’s world, is a game of balance between innovation and Emotional Intelligence, not a commandment as many see it. During times of turbulence, change, and chaos, I have often times seen more control, more structure, and more top down decision-making; a very fear-based thought process that usually ends in disengagement by followers. In today’s economy, leadership of organizations is no longer the management of day-to-day operations. It is rather, seeing the functioning of the organization as a unified system. Therefore rather than dissecting for causes in the organization for organizational problems, according to chaos theory, organizational patterns can be studies to find behavior patterns.

In working with organizations and leaders, I first start by having a value-based conversation around respect.  What is respectable to one defines their values, motivations and aspriations.  That provides a muriad of data with the identification of Pillars of Safety which is a guided exercise I practice to get at the heart of many automatic behaviors.  The assessment of  emotional intelligence ; Identifying emotions and uncovering blockages in thinking and behavior. In embracing change and innovation, rather than a hierarchical, process oriented dynamics, I help him or her to view their role as a catalyst and a support, rather than a perfect, all mighty and in control responsible party. We then drive toward allowing talent and employees to lead with their competencies, with autonomy, functionality, support and 360 degree feedback and effective communication. We therefore, allow the system to naturally organize itself.

 

 

Top Ten (10) Tips on Leadership In Times of  Unpredictability and Chaos

 

  1. Check your Emotions at the Door. One of the common misunderstandings about leadership is lack of fear. But if the opposite of fear is courage, we know courage is not the absence of fear, it is choosing to act with love in spite of fear. The reason one of the pillars of Emotional Intelligence is Self-awareness is largely because Emotion Regulation is a must part of not only living a healthy life, but difference making, business leader in the 21st century. Not admitting to fear, means not accepting yourself as a human being and that creates fear in your team. If you acknowledge your fear but show fortitude and strategy you are inviting trust and courage and unity. 
  2. Make aware rather than frighten. Yes, in uncertain times people do need communication of information, otherwise, they will assume and gossip. However, there are two types of information, the kind they can do something about, and the kind they cannot. Using the advents of neuroscience I work with my  leaders to do just that.  Rather than invoking fear, in engaging your team and activating their sense of empowerment, it is pertinent to Ignite the reward centers of the brain by tapping into the belongingness need. As human-beings if we feel scared, and insecure, we will feel hesitant to take action. But if we are made aware, we will be empowered and courageous.
  3. Talk less, do more. Often times, leadership becomes the generator of opinions and not the generator of action. Input that doesn’t add value, is not leadership. Instead it’s best to resort to responsibility. Sometimes resources may not be readily available or training may not be sufficient. Taking ownership and preparing to accept the challenge is a great tool for trust building and encouragement from a leader. Our brain’s frontal cortex associated with problem solving and decision-making has the capability to dissipate fear toward best performance, if we rise above the reptilian and the mammalian parts of the brain associated with survival.
  4. Mobilize and utilize. We have all heard of the phrase “Analysis paralysis”. There are so many different ways we problem-solve, process information, communicate,  etc.  The power of a team is in it’s synergy and ability to utilize all of it diverse talent.  There are the communicators, analyzers, and creatives etc.  For example, creative and analytic types in teams, will feel more energized, hopeful and joyful when they can do just that, analyze. Rather than get busy without knowledge. Utilize this group to team up to gain knowledge and insight quickly.  Google did just that and look where they are today.  Strategize and Make a Move. Different personalities have a propensity for analyzing decisions more than others and prefer to delay decisions as much as possible. Learning when not to postpone decisions, when you are naturally aiming for perfection, and waiting for additional information, could mean failure. It takes an opposite personality or a coach to help you bounce off ideas so you can decide to do what you need to do with what you have, and don’t look back. Indecisiveness is the surest way to undermine credibility. 
  5. Lead with Inclusion, not diversity. During the past centuries, we have gone from segregation, to diversity but not necessarily to inclusion. Diversity seems like a forced mentality. A thought that by its mere existence casts doubt on reality. Diversity is all around us. We need only to learn to be inclusive. Leading with inclusion would invite different thinking, culture, skills, experience and innovation rather than simply standardization of the same old.
  6. Be a Connector. A leader takes the time to get to know the talent in the organization. Walking among the people and learning about their world. Communication failure, is most often the key to organization effectiveness and disengagement. So elimination of silo’s and physical space and internal networking opportunities throughout is they key to building connections among people and leadership. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes connectors as “multipliers who help create relationships between people”.
  7. Innovate, Don’t Dictate.  In uncertain times, arrival of new information often times means a challenge to the previous plan. Keeping an open mind to problem-solve with all levels of the team, encouraging creativity and innovation, rather than added control or measures to increase certainty will allow room for adoption of better solutions as they arise. The goal is to move forward at the best pace possible.
  8. Be an example of team not just a leader of it. During chaos, servant-leadership is the only leadership model that truly inspires a team, because it demonstrates that we are all in it together. To do this, you must stay consistent no matter how big or small the acts or tasks. That means no special treatment.
  9. Be Humble and honest. Much of the old leadership mentality is “no apologies”, “not admitting to mistakes” and certainly no “I don’t knows”. This is not confidence it is actually fear. Fear of not being adequate, not being taken seriously. In truth, people trust those leaders that they can trust, not those who are know it alls. Nobody knows all things, all of the time. So let the ego out the door, and be honest. If you don’t know something, tell them. The thing about ego is it goes both ways. You act with fear, you get fear in return; in reflection, acting based on ego, your team will not come to you with what they know or don’t know.

 

Conclusion

Following the Sunday mass shooting at the church, in response to President Trump’s tweet in that the shooting is a “mental health problem”, Puente said firearms restrictions for people with a history of domestic violence, substance abuse disorders and other high-risk groups have been shown to reduce gun violence. He went on to say that “Calling this shooting a ‘mental health problem’ distracts our nation’s leaders from developing policies and legislation that would focus on preventing gun violence through a scientific, public health approach.” Both suggesting point to control, regulation and division. Neither is actionable. Neither is working with chaos. Both comments are divisive as one blames the mentally ill, and the other Gun owners. Meanwhile the chaos continues to consistently move forward. Don’t we owe the victims and their loved ones more than simple statements of “the problem”?

One of the most influential business writers of the 1980s and 1990s, Tom Peters in his book Thriving on Chaos wrote “we live in a world turned upside down, and survival depends on embracing revolution.”

The most successful leaders understand that it is not the organization or the individual who is most important, but the relationship between the two. Guns are not going anywhere and neither is mental illness. Working as a society to accept both entities and learn to innovatively work with both is going with the times. Rather than constant blaming, accusing, and attacking, we can begin by accepting diversity of thought, culture, skills, experience and yes mental health. Design conversations around all layers of the population, and all groups. In truth, by doubting, blaming, and assuming members of society, we are creating more of the same and manifesting more fear, more pain and more threat. Hope is only in acceptance and in inclusion and that is what a leader brings to the table.

 

 

 

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