An act of leadership is an action taken by one person, or group of people, that he/she/they believe will help the organization evolve towards agreed-upon pursued improvements.
In other words, people (at least managers) get together, understand their work better, agree on how they will pursue improvement through evolutionary change. Then, people go and do things. They make decisions. They are helping the system to evolve. They understand the implications of their decisions and actions for the system as a whole. They are sensing and responding to feedback from the system. They are taking responsibility for making things better.
Examples of Basic Acts of Leadership:
-Refining and making more explicit the definition of who our customers are and what they ask us for.
-Making the work more visible.
-Initiating a conversation to make policies more explicit.
-Listening to what others are saying about the problems of the system (even complaining!) and saying “Let’s do something about it!” and then doing something about it.
-Finding ways to better manage the work so that people are more free to self-organize.
-Measuring things that matter to customers.
Examples of Advanced Acts of Leadership:
-Asking questions that help people think differently about their work (double-loop learning)
-Creating environments in which others feel safe and free to carry out basic acts of leadership.
-Helping others learn about and apply evolutionary change theory.
Examples of Acts of Anti-leadership (micro-management):
-Telling other people how to do their jobs, including how to organize around the work.
-Measuring the performance of people (including groups and teams).
What is Evolutionary Change Theory?
An enterprise is an ecosystem of interdependent services. Services are systems for serving the needs of customers. Enterprises assume risk in order to pursue reward. Learning to better manage assumed risks enables an enterprise to evolve. Fit services manage explicit risks in order to pursue explicit rewards by serving the needs of customers. They adapt to changes in the environment, changes that introduce new risks. They learn how to manage and evolve in order to remain fit. They remain fit for the purposes of their customers and therefore fit for survival in the larger, dynamic ecosystems of the market, economy and society.
Every act that potentially contributes to the improved fitness of the enterprise ecosystem is an act of leadership.
These are essential management and leadership principles and practices for 21st century business success.