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The Ark of Leadership: A First Sample Chapter

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The Collaborative Rainbow leader takes great joy in discovering, uncovering and enhancing the hidden talents of people in an organization. In this way, she is aligned with Best Practice 4’s focus on diversity and differences. In her appreciation, the Rainbow leader is inspiring (Best Practice 3) and creating community (Best Practice 4.  She believes that an organization will find all the resources it needs if it will only make a solid commitment to its employees.  Furthermore, this organization will also find and engage resources that it didn’t even know it needed—these are the resources provided by a diverse population of employees and stakeholders. There is abundance in Diversity.

Making Good Trouble on Behalf of Diversity

All of this is well and good. People of different color, age and gender are welcomed to the table. New ideas are articulated and honored!  But is this diversity always really welcomed? Is not the Rainbow leader at times a “troublemaker”—someone who gets in “good (and often necessary) trouble”, as John Lewis (the civil rights leader) often advocated. Does not a Rainbow emerge only in the midst of a storm? Ron Heifetz suggested that the collaborative leader often goes against the grain:[xix]

“Rather than fulfilling the expectations for answers, [the collaborative leader] provides questions; rather than protecting people from outside threat, one lets people feel the threat in order to stimulate adaptation; instead of orienting people to their current roles, [the collaborative leader] disorients people so that new role relationships develop; rather than quelling conflict, one generates it; instead of maintaining norms, one challenges them.”

While the inspiring Azure Blue leader helps to define the mission for which resources are created and consumed, the collaborative Rainbow leader ensures that all members of the organization have a say regarding this mission. They are all sitting at the table when important priorities are established. This resides at the heart of Diversity. While the organization doesn’t have to self-managed, as in the case of STS, it does have to be one in which key decisions involve all constituencies—and it takes an effective Rainbow leader engaging in Best Practice 4 to make this happen.

The Rainbow leader ensures that the personal aspirations of members of the organization are taken into account when this mission is defined. Furthermore, in alignment with Best Practice 3, personal aspirations help to “inspire” the organization-wide aspirations. Like the inspiring Azure Blue leader, the collaborative Rainbow leader strongly emphasizes community and commitment. Like the thoughtful leader, the collaborative Rainbow leader strongly emphasizes the importance of information as a vehicle for empowerment.

Change and Learning

Like her assertive Ruby Red compatriot, the collaborative Rainbow leader believes that people often feel good about working with one another when they are set free to begin work on an actual project—this is where STS comes fully alive. People also feel good about working with one another when they can learn by doing something and making mistakes rather than by just planning or dreaming. Once again, STS comes alive. While the assertive leader tends to encourage change and the thoughtful leader tends to slow down change, the collaborative Rainbow leader often guides the change that naturally takes place. Ideally, she works closely with the inspiring Azure Blue leader by helping people deal with the fear and resistance that inevitably accompany any major change effort. In this work, the Rainbow leader is serving in the critical role of metabolizer of the anxiety associated with change.

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