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The Ark of Leadership: A First Sample Chapter

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Good Trouble and the Chalice: The spirit of collaborative Rainbow leadership is exemplified in the engagement of Rainbow leaders in enactment of the Empowerment Pyramid and engagement of Best Practices 3 and 4. This spirit is also effectively conveyed in the description offered by Wheatley regarding the role of disorder in today’s organizations. We create disorder (“good trouble”), suggests Wheatley, “when we invite conflicts and contradictions to rise to the surface, when we search them out, highlight them, even allowing them to grow large and worrisome. . .  No longer the caretakers of order, we become the facilitators of disorder. We stir things up and roil the pot, looking always for those disturbances that challenge and disrupt until, finally, things become so jumbled that we reorganize work at a new level of efficacy.”[xxvi]

There are several important lessons for the collaborative leader to learn if she intends to roil the pot. First, the disruption must engage many people. The collaborative leader can’t do it alone. Best Practice 3 is knocking on the door. Leadership must be inspired so that it can be shared. The collaborative leader needs all colors of the Rainbow. If she does go it alone, then the disruption is easily dismissed as the product of a troublemaker or crazy person.

Second, having increased the challenge for members of the organization, a collaborative leader must know how to provide sufficient time and support for members of the organization to absorb and respond to this disequilibrium. Best Practice 4 is knocking on the door. Community is to be built This is a key role for the effective collaborative leader. She must ensure that there is a balance between the challenge associated with conflict, chaos and the support offered by the group and by the leader herself.[xxvii]

Riane Eisler emphasizes the critical (but often unacknowledged) role played by women in providing a chalice or container for a group—especially as it moves to being a team (see Chapter Ten).[xxviii] In providing the chalice, a collaborative leader makes an organization a safe and supportive place in which its members can tolerate the uncertainty and stress associated with conflict and chaos. Heifetz similarly describes the role of leaders in providing and managing a holding environment.[xxix] Physicians often serve this containing function in their relationship with patients. Parents also serve as containers in working with and supporting their children—and collaborative leaders create a holding environment when they effectively facilitate the adaptive work of their organization. The collaborative leader “contains and regulates the stresses that [this adaptive] work generates.”[xxx]

Inappropriate Uses of Strength

The strengths of collaborative Rainbow leaders also get them in trouble. This type of leader is sometimes unpredictable. She takes on many different roles and shifts from moment to moment depending on the needs of the organization. These shifts can be perceived as a sign that this person doesn’t know what she wants to do. Alternatively, this approach to leadership is considered highly expedient. Some members of an organization will conclude that the collaborative leader can’t be relied on to take a consistent position on any critical issue.

These accusations often have little substance. Nevertheless, the apparent inconsistency of collaborative leaders sometimes engenders a lack of trust among those with whom they work. If these changes do have substance, it is often because the collaborative leader is focusing too strongly on the needs and dynamics of the group—and efforts to create a time out of the group. The Rainbow leader is inclined to forget about the needs of the organization or the enduring vision to which the group should direct its attention.

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