Friday, March 12, 2010

Engagement and Leadership -- Creating Space

I've been keeping track of various discussions and blogs out there, and my interest in the subject of competency, motivation and opportunity (CMO) has carried over from the ideas expressed in the preceding post to thoughts on leadership.  People have been talking about qualities of leaders and one that sticks with me is the emphasis on the fact that leaders create space.  I'd have to agree. If you think about it, that jives with the Opportunity part of the CMO triad.

Sadly, that there have been times where I observed that not enough was done to create space...well, to be starkly honest, I have seen that when people have potentially transformative ideas, management can sometimes react territorially, inspiring colleagues of the would-be change agent to ignore (and even disparage) his or her new ideas, since there was no leadership that would create a way to adopt, or even discuss new ways of doing things. The constricted workplace is a culture of inertia, and since creativity always has to go somewhere, the constricted workplace becomes a toxic workplace where a lack of trust is self-reproducing.

On more positive fronts, I have also observed that when those in charge ask for and are open to their employees' input on decisions and are not afraid to delegate, the enthusiasm for work increases exponentially.

That says to me that under it all, people already have the motivation to engage and use discretionary effort (and where they have motivation and opportunity, they will develop the competencies in a risk-tolerant environment) so what's most important is the ability of those in charge to create the space to let it happen.

So, in the end, it seems to me that a leader is someone who creates space (a values-based approach) rather than someone who constricts it, identifying leadership with control (a rules-based approach.).  Leaders create a culture of trust and opportunity.

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