Action Wheel Leadership
When learning leadership metaphors, begin with existence. This leadership metaphor is rooted in the history of your organization.
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Each leadership metaphor represents one of the Action Wheel dimensions of leadership as developed in Dr. Robert Terry's book Authentic Leadership: Courage In Action.
Action Wheel Dimension: Existence
Leadership Metaphor: Life Is A Gift
Isabel Briggs Myers called her book on personality types, Gifts Differing. A number of us, however, build our world view on the idea that not only are our traits gifts but that life itself is a gift. Just what is a gift? Lewis Hyde in The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World describes it as "a thing we do not get by our own efforts. We cannot buy it; we cannot acquire it through an act of will. It is bestowed upon us. Thus, we rightly speak of 'talent' as a 'gift,' for although a talent can be perfected through an effort of the will, no effort in the world can cause its initial appearance. Mozart, composing on the harpsichord at the age of four, had a gift." The gift metaphor is pervasive in religious traditions.
When we use the gift metaphor, we link life to existence and make existence a gift also.
Existence is that from which human action moves. Existence is stubborn; it is pre-resource. By viewing existence as a gift, the "thatness" of existence is transformed.
What is taken in, received, appropriated, enjoyed, and relished becomes internal rather than external to our lives. That which has been alien is now friendly; that which is strange, now familiar. Thus, "gift" as a leadership metaphor causes us to look at the givenness of life from a mode of cherished affirmation.
The challenge within the Leadership Metaphor of Existence is to know the history of the organization, what it means, how to celebrate it and how to pass it on. It requires willingness to address the truth, both good and bad, of that history. This Dimension defines, focuses and engages everyone in the purpose of the organization. Values are identified, preserved, embodied and passed on to guide the organization toward its purpose.
The Leadership Metaphor of Existence Core Ideas:
The past (Existence) is the necessary foundation to all the other Dimensions of the Action Wheel. The issues of the past impact the present and the future. Bob Terry taught that some points of discussion when exploring Existence within your organizational life might include:
There is an immutable "giveness" to life. It is what it is.
The Leadership Metaphor of Existence: Building on the Past
The Leadership Metaphor of Existence: Gifts of the Past
The challenge of ignoring or adapting to the past is constant and persistent. There are situations when we want to preserve and build on the past. Other situations require us to face a past that should not be preserved. Denial and avoidance are a constant danger in this dimension. The past is a gift. Sometimes we are excited and delight in the gift. Sometimes we hate the gift and want to toss it away. In either case, the gift is given and we are challenged to receive it, understand it and embrace it.
Stewards of the Past
Stepping into the future, we remain stewards of the past. We carry history forward. Our interpretation of the past has clear implications for the future. The past is a never-ending process:
Preserving the Past
What things do you have that link you to the past in ways that motivate, guide and propel your actions in the future? These symbols are significant, laden with meaning, invoke memories and can launch you into the future with greater wisdom and insight. Parts of the past are solidified, revered, represented, and documented in many ways.
Organizations must pay attention to the ways the members preserve remnants of their past. These representations are a concrete reference point to the past and germinate into the future. Some examples include: icons, ceremonies, symbols, sacred memories, sacred texts, documents, rituals, routines, remembrances, ceremonies, costumes, flags, performances, etc.
Core values are tied to the organization. Core values are:
Organizational Purpose and Identity
Organizational purpose and Identity can be defined using Jim Collins' Hedgehog concept (2001). Collins found that it took an average of 4 years for most companies to clearly define their Hedgehog. The three questions that make up the concept are: