A Generic Framework
In chapter 1, I proposed a working deinition of leading and leadership:
Leaders are people who inluence others to make positive change.
Leaders are those who are engaged in the processes of leading and the activities of leadership. A leader is not a person occupying a position in a hierarchy.
The generic framework for all leadership activity captures those deinitions in a tetrad (see Figure 2.2). That tetrad serves as a learning framework for any change or leading process. It also represents a simple but powerful descriptor of leadership activity. The terms it contains serve as the irst-level elements of leadership activity. In the sections below, “The Developmental Leadership Model” and “The Leadership Competency Model,” I will be building on this irst, generic level of thought to complete the road map for the rest of the book.
This irst-level framework provides a means for thinking strategically about activities during which change is occurring and thinking carefully is important. My colleagues and I have used this generic framework to think strategically about product and process improvements, organizational change, mergers and acquisitions, and a host of other important tasks where objectivity is important. The same framework can be used in other environments – for example, to understand governmental or political change, social change, or academic pursuits. In short, it is suitable for thinking about any leading process.
This generic framework considers three speciic interdependent processes: changing things for the better, taking action, and thinking about future states.
Changing Things for the Better
Changing things for the better is a primary activity of leadership. In chapter 1, I offered a working deinition of leading and leadership: inluencing people to make positive change. The generic framework I propose to represent the process of changing things for the better is this dyad:
Ground state → Ideal goal
In as much detail as is useful, the ground state is meant to represent those things that are meant to be changed. An example follows:
Even in the simplest form we can conceive that manufacturing an automobile involves designing and building many distinct and complicated systems
Figure 2.2 The Nature of Leadership Activity
and then connecting all those systems to form a inished automobile. Those systems include the ignition “system,” the paint “system,” the engine “system,” the suspension “system,” and so on.
When the leader-engineer decides to change things for the better in a given model year, decisions must be made regarding which systems need or do not need to be changed to make the new model better. In the terms we are using in the generic framework, the systems to be changed comprise the ground state. The leadership activity described as “changing things for the better” is represented in the generic framework as the sum of many leading and leadership activities related to moving from a ground state to a set of ideal goals for each of these activities.
I was the general manager of the paint business for DuPont Canada for a number of years. The leader-engineers of the automobile manufacturers would contact and consult the leader-engineers in the paint business at DuPont Canada to discuss changes in the painting systems for their new automobile models. Teams would be assigned and goals established to meet the needs of the painting systems for the new models.
Collectively, as a business unit, all the people in DuPont Canada's various project teams – the chemistry team, the logistics team, and the customer service team – would spend many hours working on the ground state. Then, once we understood what needed to be changed to meet the needs of all stakeholders – especially the customer – we would shift to deining and then working on goals.