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The Leadership Spectrum: II. Blended Perspectives and Practices

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It is a matter of dialogue (respectful hearing of alternative perspectives) rather than discussion (determining who has the best argument). It is a matter of “constructive” because the purpose is to move beyond rhetoric to action. This requires that the team/group constructs a shared perspective on reality (domain of information)—which is best achieved through collaborative, appreciative dialogue (Gergen and Gergen, 2004). It is achieved through construction of a shared, compelling vision (domain of intentions) that accounts for the interests of all relevant stakeholders. It is achieved through the construction of a viable plan of action (domain of ideas). Rather than determining who is the winner and who is the loser of a discussion, we “lean into the future” (Bergquist and Mura, 2011) by engaging in and completing an appreciative and constructive dialogue.

Moving to Initiation and Insight

The pot of gold is attained by a team or group seeking Integration and Collaboration when the constructive and appreciative dialogue leads to movement beyond the three domains to the other two “I’s” – Initiation and Insight. This means that we must go beyond information, intentions and ideas. We have to try out the idea—hopefully in a setting that is safe and yields important new insights about information that is still needed and greater clarification of intentions that is also needed. It is when we move to Initiation that the three domains of Information, Intentions and Ideas become fully engaged and it is at the point of Initiation that the distinctive strengths of Ruby Red, Azure Blue and Golden Yellow are most needed.

The fifth “I” (Insight) concerns what we learn from taking the Initiative and seeing what happens. As two 20th Century thought leaders, John Dewey (1929) and Kurt Lewin (Lippitt, Watson and Westley, 1958) both noted: we can often learn by doing. Both suggested that we often gain useful knowledge about a system only when we give it a “kick” (try to change it). This is a process called “action learning.” (Argyris and Schon, 1978; Senge, 1990). We learn by not avoiding making mistakes (which is inevitable in our VUCA-plus world), but by learning from these mistakes – so that we don’t keep repeating them.

This means that we must build in tight feedback systems (program evaluation tools and processes) when moving forward with an idea. Our Golden Yellows can help create a system that yields valid and useful information, while our Azure Blues can identify the criteria for determining if we have been successful (with the Golden Yellows ensuring that the criteria are measurable or at least observable). The Ruby Reds can ensure that this process of review is well organized and moving forward so that we can soon return to the field of action and can return, if necessary (which is often the case), to this fifth domain of Insight, for further program evaluation, review and adjustment.

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