One of most significant aspects of leadership involves stewardship of resources both collective and individual. People instinctively want to understand how their needs will be met in present and in future. When they are confident their needs will be cared for, they experience a sense of control and a feeling of power. Ironically, in process they must acknowledge a dependence upon collective action for success. They internalize collective agenda as their own—a deep sense of trust in organization and its leadership is result. Leading by influencing people's belief in fairness of resource flows and their trust that they will eventually benefit, is a powerful aspect of leadership.
Like deep green of rainforest canopy, when leadership provides its members with resources they need to grow, organizational canopy is teaming with life. In this second of a series of articles exploring spectrum of leadership influence, I address question: how does deep green leadership energize others?
The Story Part 1: The Conundrum One Thursday afternoon as a scheduled meeting was breaking up, Lynn, CEO, realized he had time to stop by field office in town. He had hoped he could as this office was one of lower performing ones in region. He sent his driver ahead with his luggage saying he would have office manager drive him to airport after his visit.
When he arrived at plush offices, he was taken by emptiness of space, quiet and relatively low energy level. The support staff seemed to be making themselves busy and members of outside sales team who were in office, were busily doing paperwork between conversations with office mates. When questions were posed about how things could be run more effectively, Lynn was struck by pervasive sense of powerlessness. Productive work was hard to identify against backdrop of make-work activity.
Lynn regretted having become disconnected from organization. He remembered a few months back when he visited a high performance office. It had seemed as though an "invisible hand" was guiding action, efficiently and effectively.
He remembered feeling that things were going well then, that actions seemed directed and everyone was excited and happy. They came in early and stayed late. The pace of action was quick and efficient. Now, in contrast, people seemed to be making work, active but without clear link to organization's objectives. They were doing what they thought was right, but weren't sure. Morale, it seems, had sagged. As he left office and headed for airport, he made a mental note: "Our leadership plan needs work," he thought.
Analysis and Perspective In his leadership role, Lynn was appropriately, if informally, monitoring a leading indicator of performance. When he noted apparent confusion regarding efficient resource allocation and a pervasive sense of powerlessness he was observing an indicator of sagging leadership effectiveness. He appropriately hypothesized that this decline was related to a reduced "velocity" of leadership across organization, amount of time spent on leadership activities was declining. Because a pervasive sense of powerlessness and confusion about resource distribution are indicative of a decline in a specific type of leadership influence, called deep green leadershipSM, he realized that he needed to initiate programs to reenergize this type of leadership in organization.
Lynn knew that three steps were required: first gather information about current situation, diagnose issues and formulate hypotheses; second, initiate specific leadership activities designed to shore-up deeply held sense of fairness in resource distribution across firm and sense of potency or power that results; and third, institutionalize change by integrating these initiatives into organization's culture.
Lynn realized this would not be easy. His leadership teams must find ways to influence members' deeply held beliefs about their relationship with organization and their sense of organization's fairness. The benefits of success are great, however, because a sense of fairness enables trust and clarity of action. Both focus action on collective benefits rather than on individual comforts.
Case Study Examples Many organizations face periods where change in environment or to organization's structure disrupts flow of resources through system. The organization's members begin to wonder what these changes mean to them and whether they will be treated fairly. During these periods, organization's members do not feel in control of their own situation and of their organization's success. They spend time and energy trying to understand what situation means to them and attempting to position themselves to benefit or simply to protect their interests. Sometimes they even consider leaving. To prepare for possible inequity, some members use organization's resources to feather their nests and accumulate power in order to feel in control. Upon reflection, Lynn realized that he himself had used his driver to satisfy his personal needs even as those of organization were not best served. When sense of unfairness or lack of control occurs broadly across organization, leadership intervention is required.
The success of Intel in microprocessor business is legendary, but it didn't have to be that way. The Intel story might have been quite different if some of its managers had not been skilled at gaining access to firm resources, that is, at deep green leadership.
From moment he joined Intel, technologist Les Kohn believed firm should enter reduced instruction set computing (RISC) processor market pioneered by competitors Sun Microsystems and Motorola. However, strategically, Intel had decided not to enter market and had not allocated resources to product.
Kohn knew he needed to garner firm resources if his dream was to be realized. He also knew that a skunk works project would not have sufficient scale and scope to build team he needed. Therefore, he decided to "sell" project to top-management as a co-processor to be sold along with Intel's core products, rather than as a stand-alone processor that would have competed with Intel's core product line.
With product funded, resources flowed to project and to those working on it. Fortunately, market momentum grew and because product had good margins, Intel's production rules ensured adequate fabrication capacity and other resources were supplied to product. With his focus on providing needed resources to his project and his team, Kohn exhibited deep green leadership influence. Likewise, Intel prospered in a new market with growing revenue1.