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The Leadership Spectrum: II. Blended Perspectives and Practices

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A Rainbow Portrait

It is first important to reiterate that the Rainbow orientation is strongly aligned with the MBTI function of extraversion. Energy is generated by interacting with many other people. While the extreme Ruby Red, Azure Blue and Golden Yellow leader is likely to feel drained by too many meetings and too much collaboration with other people, the Rainbow leader will usually feel great at the end of a day of interpersonal relationships—and might feel drained when there are no interactions (a day spent alone reading or preparing a report). What is the Rainbow source of joy: being with other people—and most importantly (and often ignored) being all things to all people. This is the person in David Kolb’s (1984) scheme who is the accommodator, adjusting to all situations and changing strategies rather than stubbornly hanging on to one strategy (Kolb’s assimilator—which is more commonly among those with a Golden Yellow orientation or even the Extreme Ruby Reds and Azure Blues).

The most frequent source of energy comes from the challenge of bringing together diverse perspectives and competing interests. Those with a Rainbow orientation are likely to focus their attention on influencing other people and the relationships between themselves and other people. They are also likely to attend to ways they can influence the nature of groups functioning—whether in the role of leader, facilitator or member. Their strength is inspiring other people to be interpersonally “sensitive”– so that they will do what you (as the Rainbow expert) believe is the “right” way to behave. At their best as Rainbow leaders, these “group freaks” can get others to savor the rich dynamics associated with working in teams and groups.

What are the major challenges for the Rainbow: being asked to be consistent (a request often brought up by a Golden Yellow) and being asked to be more principled and less expedient (often brought up by an Azure Blue). The Ruby Red offer their own challenge: they ask the Rainbow leader to help get it done immediately and not overdo the group facilitation. The existential threat for someone with a Rainbow orientation is to be left alone without support, information or guidance—and to be ineffective in their interpersonal or group relationships.

The Rainbow of Integration

The Rainbow leader, in the extreme, is the ultimate pragmatist who is only interested in what is immediately useful or applicable. Idealists (the Azure Blue) are too abstract for them, realists (Golden Yellow) too slow and data-bound and activists (Ruby Red) too reckless. But a pragmatist’s lens on utilitarian decision-making and action tends to short-change an organization when it needs a broader vision or longer-term perspective. Such a longer view may require investments before the pragmatist can be convinced of their utility, or research that slows down what seem to be working, tried-and-true activities.

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