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You can't systematize innovation, Jobs says, "you hire good people who will challenge each other every day to make best products possible.... When I got back, Apple had forgotten who we were.... Fortunately, we woke up"2.
These stories demonstrate power of deep blue leadership. When leadership operates on people's deeply held sense of identity and purpose, motivation comes from inside out.
The Story Part 2: Resolution When Lynn arrived in his office, he immediately asked some tough questions. "How often are teams getting together to talk about opportunities to realize our vision? Are we passionate about process improvements? How about new ways of thinking? Do we critically review project plans and budgets? Do we talk seriously about personal and career development? Do people share a common vision? What is it? How does situation compare with six months ago? How engaged are our people? These were difficult questions, but ones that could be answered. The process took several weeks, but once data was gathered and preliminary analysis was completed, trend was clear—leadership activity aimed at identity and purpose, deep blue leadershipSM activity, had fallen off in organization.
When he had these answers, Lynn called his leadership team together to share findings and express his concerns. "We seem to have lost our edge," he said. "I don't feel energy that I did six months ago, and data that shows our lower activity levels support my concerns. Our leadership velocitySM in areas supporting our collective sense of deep significance, identity and vision has dropped off. To be strong company we need to be, we have to do better. How can we bring back excitement?"
The team had a difficult time at first, uncomfortable with meta-perspective Lynn brought to discussion. "Isn't it manipulative to target activities that influence deeply held believes about identity and purpose?" one manager asked. What began as a one-hour discussion, continued in a follow-up two-day session, second day of which included a much broader array of leaders. It became clear from interaction that even among leadership, cracks had formed in common sense of purpose. Renewal was needed. As Lynn knew, it had already begun.
In course of discussion, it was agreed that monthly half-day sessions among members of leadership team were needed to evolve and communicate collective identity. The process cascaded into organization until a consistent, invigorating vision became evident to all members of organization. The quarterly cultural survey in use was modified to include targeted questions about personal versus collective vision, purpose and identity, to provide on-going feedback. The vision was NOT developed by a small group, and communicated downward, but left to emerge in context of guiding principles.
After six months, vision meetings were integrated into organizations planning process again. Excitement was evident and morale was high. To close out cycle of leadership, Lynn asked his teams to propose ways interventions could be proactive, with continuous feedback and action. He realized that leadership is hard work, and nothing works forever. At same time, he didn't want to wait until something seemed wrong again.
Recently, Lynn told a reporter from a national newspaper: "Sometimes I feel like we're all sailing on open sea. At once, what we do is both exciting and mysterious. But I must say, leading from deep blue is one of most satisfying parts of my job." When his teammates read his words, they smiled. They knew exactly what he meant. They had been on journey with him. ___________________________________
1Nadler, D.A. A Success Story: The Case of Lucent Technologies. (1999) In Conger, J. A., Spreitzer, G. M., Lawler, E. E. (eds.) Leaders Change Handbook. Jossey Bass: San Francisco, 3-26.
2 Mandel, Michael. This way to Future. (2004) Business Week. October 11, p. 96.
(c) Copyright 2004 James K. Hazy, Ed.D. Leadership Science, LLC Founder & CEO. Leadership Science offers a unique mix of application and research in all areas of organizational leadership. We offer custom and canned seminars, speakers and intervention programs built upon the research in how leadership impacts results. To learn more, visit our website: http://www.leadershipscience.com/. Mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org