Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Intelligent Leadership

Let's look at the word intelligent. What does it suggest? It is similar to the word intelligence - the gathering of information. To be intelligent is to make effective use of intelligence. We gather intelligence from a wide variety of sources and we constantly refresh our pool of knowledge - well we would if we were providing intelligent leadership.

With deference to Stafford Beer, let's see if I can compose a visual image of an organisation. Firstly we have have a group of primary activities. In a health provider, for example, theatre could be considered a primary activity. In an aged care facility the kitchen could be a primary activity. In itself, a primary activity is self sustaining and is a model of the entire organisation.

Around the primary activity units you have the administrative support activities that develop the information channels, enable communication between primary activities and coordinate activities.

The third group is those that provide operational planning and control. Let's refer to them as the management group.

There is a fourth group concerned with business development, marketing and research.

The fifth and final group is responsible for policy direction and identity - let's refer to them as the Board.

These five groups within any organisation for the internal environment. Surrounding them is another group we will refer to as the external environment.

The easiest way to visualise this is to draw six circles on a sheet of paper. The order doesnt matter and number them 1-5. Label the sixth circle 'external environment'. What is the first thing you notice? Is it that each of these group is disconnected to each other? Which means, of course, that their will be limited communication between the groups.

You're first reaction will be to say, well yes, that is possible but it is impossible for an organisation to function without communication. You are correct. It is impossible for an organisation to be its most effective without communication between those six groups.

This is where the intelligent leadership comes into play. It is easy to establish essential communication channels between groups in an organisation. Unfortunately all that achieves is day to day survival and eventually leads to demise. More is required. Intelligent leadership establishes multi-directional communication. Most people only ever achieve one-directional communication. That is they say, give me the information and I will decide if I want to use it or not. They offer nothing back in return. The do not consider the bigger picture and where else that information might be useful. They hoard the information they have due to a misplaced sense of gaining power. They fail to understand that they are a part of a much larger jigsaw and that the piece they hold may be the missing piece that completes the picture.

Stafford Beer refered to this as a viable system. When you have a group of self sustaining activities interacting in such a manner as to not only feed off each other but also provide nutrition to each other - independent and interdependent - then you have the most effective organisation. I refer to this as intelligent leadership.

Are you in a leadership role? Try this. Take out a piece of paper. Write down the outcomes your group are expected to acheive. Identify the communication channels that exist. Ask yourself what communication is needed to achieve optimum effectiveness. You now have the gap. Call me, John Coxon, on +61355612228 or email me and we can talk more about how to develop intelligent leadership in your organisation.

Let The Journey Continue
John Coxon

John Coxon & Associates
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