Leadership Style

Dance The Dimensions of Leadership

"Leaders are those who are responsible for their world" - Co-Active Leadership

The most effective leaders aren’t those that are loud, extroverted, and attention seeking at every turn. Diverse leaders come in all shapes, sizes, background, and experience. I’ve always thought that we are all leaders, it just depends on our role in the moment or perhaps what we are passionate about in our stage of life. I know that I can be an effective leader in one group yet, I may glide to the background in another group. That’s what’s so magical about true leadership. Just because someone is “in” a leadership position a leader they may not be!

I was thrilled to read the book Co-Active Leadership – Five Ways To Lead by Karen and Henry Kimsey-House. They approach leadership from a different angle. A modern angle with a realistic view. Leadership is not static but moves as we move to different situations or groups. We are all leaders but we aren’t always “The” leader. Life changes as we do and sometimes we all need to change our leadership style or role.

Co-Active Leadership is unique even by its title alone. The “Co” refers to a shared relationship. The ‘Active” is action oriented. Together they become a new powerful leadership style. The authors have had years of experience working with leaders and found that leadership is a choice.  Moreover, leadership is all about being responsible which breeds creativity and freedom. Becoming a Co-Active Leader means taking control of your own leadership and being responsible while doing so. It enables you to see the world in a different way and become passionate about how you impact your world. Co-Active Leadership enables us all to play different leadership roles as we shift from situation to situation. It’s all about being flexible, not static and rigid.

Karen and Henry offer up 5 different “dimensions” within their Co-Active Leadership Model. As you read each one, try to think of a time when you played each role. Think about the setting that you were in and the players around you. How did you feel? How did you react? Were you comfortable in your role? Did it feel right? Which one is your favorite?

·         Co-Active Leader Within – Self Acceptance and Self Authority: This is leadership from the inside out. You are striving to be the best every day by taking responsibility and fully accepting yourself while living with integrity. You don’t feel the need to “fix” yourself. You are whole.
·         Co-Active Leader in Front – Connection and Direction: It’s not all about being the boss for you. You prefer to grow connections with people. You choose to inspire and engage people. You know that you need others to achieve yet, you can step aside to let others glide into the spotlight.
·         Co-Active Leader Behind – Serving and Coaching: This is the role where you are the glue that holds everyone together. You love serving others and give it your all every day to help others grow. You love to be the coach and cheerleader.
·         Co-Active Leadership Beside - Partnership and Synergy: This is where you become the catalyst to partner. You design a bond around shared visions and work with the strengths of others. Likewise, you strive for balanced relationships and are committed to growing synergy within a group.
·         Co-Active Leader in the Field – Intuition and Innovation: This style is a “quiet” internal leadership. You are in this role when you still yourself and use your senses to see the big picture and how you can have an impact. You put your best foot forward with creativity and contribute by slowing down. You strategically use your intuition to bring out your own personal strengths to bring out the best in those around you. You are using your insight and are really being present.

No doubt that as you reviewed these unique leadership roles you saw yourself in each one. Humans are always changing and our leadership must move with us. At times I prefer to sit back and observe while I savor the big picture. I’m in a new job and really feel that before I can step out in front, I need to feel comfortable and really hone in on my inner creativity and intuition first.  As a committee leader in the community I slide more into the role of the “leader in front” or the even being the “leader from behind” as I encourage and empower others.

See how easy it is to switch roles and feel comfortable in all of these leadership roles? Karen and Henry refer to this dynamic as the “Dance of the Dimensions”. Life is a dance as we smoothly move from role to role and as we grow and change. You should never be satisfied with being stagnant in your leadership and you can’t always be the one in the “spotlight”.  You need to partner with others from time to time to share or flip roles. This will help you to grow as a person, leader, and as a member in your community.

Because I subscribe to the rule that anyone can be a leader I really enjoyed “Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead. It’s a quick easy read with actionable lessons. It reminded me that it’s okay to not always be an “out there” leader. I can be effective from a variety of directions and I may be at my best when I “Dance the Dimensions”. If you feel stagnant in your leadership or want a modern view into the variety of leadership styles, pick up this book today and start your own dance.

Where Is Your Line In The Sand?

"It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out; it's the grain of sand in your shoe" - Robert W. Service

Amazingly a variety of plants love sand!


As I write this, I am at the beach and can hear the gentle waves of Lake Michigan hit the sandy shores. The sun is hazy and the clouds are like streaks in the light winds. Lake Michigan is no small lake. It’s huge and can be ferocious. It’s always interesting to see the expression on visitor’s faces because they are usually surprised by the size of the lake. The Great Lakes are all interconnected and are one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world.

I’m fortunate to have grown up at my Mom’s cottage every summer on the beach. I have seen the beach line come and go. Cottages have fallen in because of the high waters. Then the water levels decreased and we were next welcomed with mounds of sand and dunes abound. Did I mention that there’s a lot of sand? When you stay at the beach you get accustomed to sand being everywhere and soon find that it’s even OK to sleep in – you just can’t escape it!
One of my favorite and most dreaded parts of the beach is the dune grass. It grows everywhere and literally dances in the North wind. I remember as a child helping to plant it on our dune at the cottage to try to establish the grass on the hill to help stop erosion. I also remember careless neighbors accidentally starting the grass on fire and soon we were all rushing to put out the entire hill that was enflamed.  Beach grass can literally help grow a dune with its deep roots and strong stems. It also hurts like hell when you step on it with bare feet! Beach goers beware! Even more impressive than the grasses is the number of plants that can actually grow happily side by side next to the grass. As a gardener, it can be baffling at times. 

Sand is essentially large particles that are very solid and differ from dirt in that they have no pockets where water and nutrients can get stuck. No nutrients or water means that plants have to work harder for both life sustaining substances. I have been amazed what sand gardeners can grow by adding copious amounts of compost, some fertilizer, raised beds, and water. Many plants will adapt. With water shortages all over the country we will all need to adapt as well. Mother Nature is in many ways drawing a line in the sand that we will all need to abide by – less water, adaptive plants.
Don’t despair if you have sand or even sandy soil. Some plants love the fast drainage and once established they may need very little water.  I was surprised when our neighbor at the lake planted Hydrangeas in the sand with some dirt and they flourished. I thought that they would die within weeks and they easily flower with some supplemental water. Below are some plants that appreciate sand. Check with your local Extension program for more. Plants for Sand

·         Rugosa Roses
·         Cleome
·         Yarrow
·         Cosmos
·         Eastern White Pine
·         Red Cedar
·         Ginkgo
·         Pea shrub
·         Witch Hazel
·         Broom
·         Smoke Tree
·         Cactus
·         Crape Myrtle
·         Wild Irish Rose
·         Quince
·         Yucca 

Be daring and look beyond the sand at what can be. With some pre-work and planning you can draw a line in the sand and plant the garden of your dreams. Don’t allow a grain of sand or two stop you.
"It draws a line in the sand. Once you cross it, you can't go back" - Greil Marcus
Photo via Rowlandrose via Compfight.com

Just as the lines in gardening can become blurred so too can the lines at work.  The other day a friend and I were lamenting about when we joined banking as manager trainees fresh out of college. The lines of authority (and dress!) were very strict and obvious. You quickly knew your boundaries and were reminded almost weekly where the line was that you had better not cross. The leadership style was “my way or the highway” not to mention autocratic. Managers hung out with managers and the trainees knew that we had better stick on our side of the room. 

Things sure have changed.  Leadership has become more servant and collaborative focused. Managers are more human and show feelings. They share the good and bad and it’s acceptable to be human. I love the new leadership that we all benefit from now. It’s refreshing and real. People respect the concept of leadership more and we all benefit from open cultures, positive rapport, higher morale, and effective productivity. It beats the old days in banking!

The new leadership has also confused things a bit as well. Most managers are less autocratic and friendlier. They take an interest in their teams. Many have forged strong relationships with their people. This new style is progressive and enables people to come to work every day with a more positive outlook and attitude. It also presents a dilemma for some managers. How close is too close when interacting with your team? Where is the ultimate line in the sand between being a manager and an office friend? How do you avoid being friendly and open without being a “friend” or appearing to give preferential treatment to certain members of your team? It’s tough. 

Many of the traits that great leaders have mirror those of your best friend. Consider the traits below and recognize those that are your friendship gifts.  

·         Selfless and concerned for others. They enjoy bringing the best out of others
·         They are loyal , committed, and responsible
·         Honest and upfront
·         Trusting and open
·         Equal  with give and take in a relationship
·         Compassionate
·         Uplifting and empowering

Does this sound like some of your best friendships? It should! You can be a great leader with friendship characteristics. There are some areas where you may need to drawn a line and keep your distance to remain a strong and fair manager. Here are examples of where to draw the line: 

·         Redefine friendship across the board. It doesn’t need to mean phone chats, drinks, and sharing secrets. The best friendships include little to none of this!
·         Don’t connect via social media other than on LinkedIn
·         Be transparent and realistic and always remain in control and “the manager” in your mind
·         Don’t become chat or bar buddies with any of your team
·         Remain social but draw the line when it becomes more homebound or with a small group of people on your team, not everyone
·         Never develop favoritism
·         Don’t fake relationships or being a friend
·         Remain confidential and closed mouth. Never give in to temptation to share information that you shouldn’t
·         Keep relationships clearly defined and even keeled
·         Be friendly but don’t be “the” friend
No one ever said that leadership would be easy. It involves being an encourager, coach, confidant, teacher, and relationship master. Be friendly, but always be careful not to cross the line. Have you ever been in a situation where you crossed the line and realized it too late or stirred the pot? I would love to hear from you!