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The Ark of Leadership: A First Sample Chapter

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A second recurring problem concerns the collaborative leader’s lack of control over the environment in which she works. The holding environment that is so critical to effective group participation can never be guaranteed by the collaborative leader. The collaborative leader can shape the stimulus but not manage the response. She can spark the debate and conflict but never fully orchestrate it.[xxxi] There is also a tendency for collaborative leaders to be viewed in quite different ways by various constituencies of the organization, lending even more weight to the problem of trust. As in the legendary story of the blind men portraying what they see when touching only one part of an elephant, the portrayal of a Rainbow leader is likely to depend on the setting in which this leader is being viewed or the specific issue being addressed by this leader.

Members of the organization who are looking for the thoughtful leader are likely to perceive the collaborative leader as too idealistic or action-oriented, whereas those who are looking for the inspiring leader will perceive the collaborative leader as too anchored in the current world or too impulsive. Finally, those members of the organization who are looking for an assertive leader will perceive the collaborative leader as wishy-washy and indecisive or too idealistic. The Best Practice 4 Community is in disarray. There is little in the actions of the Rainbow leader to inspire emerging leaders. The rainbow is fading, and pot of gold is nowhere to be found.

Conclusions

The challenge for a collaborative Rainbow leader, therefore, is to educate other members of the organization about this unique leader style. This is a principal ingredient in effective Best Practice 3. More generally, the task of all responsible members of an organization is to learn about the role of context in determining appropriate leader styles. All responsible members should learn how to identify the appropriate criteria for determining the leader style that fits best with a particular setting and at a particular place and time. This matching process is never easy.

A contextual model of leadership offers no simple formula for success. As long as all members of the organization view this matching process as an ongoing learning opportunity, the organization is likely to be well served. We must remind ourselves and our colleagues that rainbows emerge from stormy weather. Peter Armentrout might keep this in mind as he seeks to introduce more collaboration into his organization. Our Ark is now afloat on a sea of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity, turbulence and contradictions (VUCA-Plus). We should be grateful that all styles of leadership have been welcomed into our Ark and that we are in possession of a guidebook that tells us about all five best practices. It is now up to us to make appropriate use of the wisdom embedded in each perspective on leadership and in each of the legacy practices.

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