Leaders Stretch more and Control less

Having just returned from facilitating two back-to-back Leadership workshops for senior managers. I reflected on the ever-present conundrum of balancing the requirements of the session agenda, which is effectively the letter of agreement with my stakeholder, and the emerging contract that unfolds within the room, to connect learning with the real life dilemmas and issues with participants.

My conundrum as a facilitator is similar to those faced by Leaders in the room. We all have agendas, goals and tasks to achieve usually with slim time margins and diminishing resources, we can drive hard with an unbending and unwavering focus on achieving the tasks at hand - the control element, or, reflect more expansively on the outcome that we are ultimately hoping to achieve.

In my case the outcome associated with improving and enhancing ‘Transformational Leadership skills’ could be attained by conjointly sharing my dilemma with the group, a frame that we want most Leaders to adopt. One of the biggest obstacles towards achieving this is my own inherent fear of losing control and letting go.

The agenda driven program allows me to retain control, it corrals learning within a predetermined template where complexity is held at bay and chaos banished. I have intentionally and premeditatedly taken away the real anguish of discovery and replaced it instead within measured, and easily learnt and navigated steps. I have done the hard thinking for you, there is challenge no doubt but it is modulated and determined by me. This reinforces and mirrors a transactional approach, that can work against the intended outcome, which is to enable a deeper understanding of transformational leadership, with enhanced capabilities in complex-problem solving, decision-making, creativity and building relationships. The irony is that the more control I exert the further I move away from developing these capabilities and achieving a transformational outcome.

Leaders/managers can relate to this around delegation. For true delegation always operates under an element of risk, it expands the threshold. The deviations, convolutions, and meanderings are the rich pathways of real embedded learning measured against the level of risk the Leader/Manager is willing to take.

Recent research from neuroscience affirms the view that the stretch involved in working through a complex problem or issue, the very convolutions involved in the journey creates rich relational pathways within the architecture of the brain and when you couple this with excitement around the learning journey, you engage the parasympathetic nervous system which further aids in embedding learning and new behaviours.

In summary. As a leader, allow people the opportunity to stretch and immerse themselves in the meandering yet richly textured pathway of learning. Understand and modulate your need for control and instead focus on and enhance an environment for peoples capabilities to expand and flourish.

Dr. Eugene Fernandez works in partnership with senior leaders/managers, co-designing and facilitating Leadership and Change interventions where real business issues and dilemmas are worked on to enhance critical leadership and organisational capabilities.