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Collaborative Leadership


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Collaborative Leadership

  1. 1. 321 Linking: A Vital Leadership Practice by Susan Penn Explore how the practice of “linking” can radically transform and impact the trust, credibility and effectiveness of leaders and their teams. What are we practicing? As leaders, we move through our days groups, which insure survival as well as possessed impressive credentials (she had hardly aware of the reality that below serving altruistic functions which graduated from a top university, had an the surface we are practicing one of advance the species. established career in medicine and was two things: linking or ranking. now at the helm of a profitable, growing Within the individual, ranking and Both are natural components of being company) she stated that she often felt linking are occurring continually, human and linked to early brain like an imposter, and that she was not however, often not in balance. development. Ranking was developed embodying her role as the leader of the Consider the effects on engagement to help us clarify “leader of pack” issues organization. As we discussed this issue and retention in an organization with a as well as help us survive in that pack along with her desire to develop more CEO who feels she is in competition and social order. Linking, on the other credibility and trust as a leader, Stephanie and/or must continually prove herself hand, allows us to nurture connection reported that she approached every even within groups where she clearly is within groups and with individuals, and interaction as a competition, and as a at the top of the food chain. is critical to survival of the species, as it challenge to her self-worth. The ranking relates to the development of bonds, This was the case with Stephanie, a function had run amok. connections and relationships within CEO of a national, mid-sized, growing organization. Although Stephanie Ranking and Linking are always with us: Ranking is the practice of defining our place in a social group or hierarchy. To be focused on ranking is to be focused on the perception of who has the most power and influence in a given situation. If you are ranking focused, you may be driven by competition in regards to intelligence, appearance, performance, title, salary, memberships, or and any criteria held as valuable by you or your social/professional group. Unconscious ranking can translate to evaluations of self-worth and value (or lack of) based on these and other characteristics.
  2. 2. 21 LINKING: A VITAL LEADERSHIP PRACTICE Lorem Ipsum Ranking and Linking are not inherently negative or positive. For instance, a leader can use rank in the betterment of the individuals who report to him and the organization, and gain trust We are always practicing and respect in the process. something Conversely, individuals may attempt to link in order to relationships. For instance, because this For Stephanie, ranking was not pursue their own agendas CEO found it difficult to “link” or connected to the reality of her position and in pursuit of their own connect with her reports, she often or her substantial accomplishments. It goals and purposes and will defaulted to “ranking” based control and was an internal dialogue that in any command behaviors. Far from the be perceived as given circumstance either devalued desired result, failing to make someone manipulative and insincere. her or others. Through coaching, do something you need them to do Stephanie began to see how ranking Linking with the intent to without harsh methods results in a drop had essentially compensated for the in rank. This, of course, undermined connect, hear, empathize, lack of linking in her life and how her confidence and the perception coach and understand will vying for worth in her family was a others had of her as a trustworthy and pattern that was repeating itself. This result in connection, job capable leader. Equally as important, her compensation sabotaged her ability to satisfaction, and an team felt unsafe to provide open, honest build meaningful relationships in and increasing ability to build feedback, a huge blind spot for any outside of work. credibility as well as trusting CEO. Elaine N Aron, Phd states, “Much of and authentic relationships At first Stephanie believed linking was what we do is compare ourselves to which will sustain long after risky business and could be perceived as others and strive for respect, influence business objectives have weakness. Individuals who weigh more and power. “ However, living life in a heavily on the ranking side often believe been met. constant state of comparing and that focusing on relationship takes too competition (ranking) has a substantial much time and involves loss of control. impact on interactions and However, as Brene Brown states,
  3. 3. 3 3 “Vulnerability is the birthplace of As a leader, ranking and linking go hand innovation, creation and change.” in hand. Clearly, this CEO was in Fortunately, she was committed and was charge of the organization’s outcomes willing to step out of her comfort zone and needed to make decisions that only and began to “organize” herself in a she could make. However, she is now different way. We focused on small building confidence in her ability to Linking is the changes, for instance, asking questions practice both in the process of leading practice of rather than telling, abstaining from the organization. The team who extending to others providing immediate solutions when through a 360 assessment reported that while being meeting with individuals who were more “she would be happier if she could do grounded in what than capable of providing valuable input. everything by herself,” are beginning to She replaced her need to be the expert feel like a valued part of the you really care and the compulsion to prove herself (a organization. about. ranking function) in any given Linking practices involve active conversation or circumstance, with the listening, openness, suspending of consciously established practice of inquiry, “Connection is the criticism and judgment, and an open listening, and a partnered approach mind, heart and will. It is the practice energy between towards problem solving and goal setting. of extending to others while being people when they Although it felt unnatural to her initially, grounded in your values and what you feel seen, heard, she was well on her way to adding the care about. When the desire to and valued; when practice of “linking” to her toolbox of understand is stronger than the desire they can give and leadership behaviors. She noted that when to be understood, linking is not only she focused on linking with team taking place, it has the potential to receive without members, although uncomfortable and completely shift conversations and judgment, and new, she began to see others and herself in outcomes. when they derive a less judgmental light, and with more sustenance and Linking trumps ranking in regards to clarity. This brought more awareness of biological and psychological strength from what fueled her behaviors, namely, the importance, and as a vital leadership relationship.” (Brene belief that she must do everything on her practice. As leaders we have the Brown) own, and that “no one really cares as capacity to become conscious of where much as I do.” A shift at this level changes we are coming from and make choices schema, frees up energy and leads to more that will affect people and outcomes in effective leadership based actions. our lives and organizations.
  4. 4. LINKING: A VITAL LEADERSHIP PRACTICE REINVENTURE CONSULTINGOur practices define who and what we are as leaders and organizationsMost organizations need more linking and less ranking. Linkingactually tempers and transforms ranking, which when out of balancehas negative affects both to the person and the organization. Thinkabout the best leaders in your life. Think about the individuals you lookforward to seeing and being with every day. In most cases, it isindividuals who lean towards ranking that are our least satisfyingrelationships.As leaders, we can all learn to become conscious about what is goingon in our head and what we are thinking about most of the time.Getting clear on which function, linking or ranking, is predominant atany given time can result in our being in a place of choice, and giveus the power to change the dynamic and outcome of interactions,relationships and outcomes.