We think we know leadership when we see it. But, if we were to evaluate our experiences more deeply, to think more critically, most of us would be more likely to agree with a slightly different statement: “I know leadership when I feel it.” There is a useful 3-dimensional framework for how we can better understand, engage with, and lead in our businesses.
Direct experience – my (our individual) experience of a relationship, image, event, circumstance, etc. This is the “I” dimension. We each have an “I” dimension from our own lives we bring to the organization. Our personal stories and experiences.
Divergent perspectives – others’ experiences of a relationship, image, event, circumstance, etc. The “you” dimension (really hearing others). This dimension takes time to learn - the deep understanding of one another that the experiences others (you) bring. In the rush of any given week of a startup, we can forget to keep working on this. But really hearing one another is just as important as listing to our customer - perhaps more so.
Determining the implications: The interactions between and implications of dimensions 1 and 2. The “we” dimension (a unifying dimension). This is active work. It involves 2 or more of us understanding one another’s perspectives - then looking for the “best opportunity” that leverages our collective knowledge and wisdom to make our company and our products better.
So, leadership starts with the individual - within the individual - as a process of relating to the world. But if we are to lead with purpose; if we are to impact others positively, we must understand, build and rebuild the connections that link us to others. Transforming I's and You's into "We's."
Michael is an executive coach, entrepreneur, investor, and strategist with 30 years of experience leading investor-backed, high-growth organizations.
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