In summary, leadership is both individual and collective, and can be demonstrated at the personal level (e.g., leadership of one’s own life and relationships), at the group level (e.g., within or across teams, business units or families), at the enterprise level (e.g., within or across nonprofit, for-profit or governmental organizations) or at the supra-enterprise levels (e.g., within or across industries, sectors and nations). Effectiveness of leadership is measured by the degree to which critical outcomes are achieved, in the face of the specific contextual barriers and opportunities.
The Performance Prism articulates the three “legs of the stool” of high-performing leadership: the ability to envision (hold a vision, strategy, idea), enroll (engage others to participate), and enact (catalyze or generate action). This triad is grounded in leadership’s essential core and operate together to achieve the outcomes that matter most. This model can be used to improve specific aspects of individual and collective leadership. First, we use the Performance Prism diagnostically to understand what “good” looks like, including the essential component pieces and their relationship to each other. Then we assess those components and thus identify the key drivers of suboptimal results. We then use the Performance Prism prescriptively to generate and implement effective strategies to strengthen the system, building in plenty of opportunity for the repeat use and practice needed to build sustained change. Finally, we periodically reassess, to understand whether the desired results are being achieved, why or why not. This ongoing monitoring and reflection fuels continuous learning and improvement.
There are four correlated meta competencies that are at the root of leadership capability and development: seeing; connecting; doing; and being. How leadership “sees” includes how it perceives reality and its ability to be aware of and tune its own meaning-making capabilities to “see more.” How leadership “connects” includes how it attunes to social and emotional cues, and harnesses the power of human emotion and relationships. The “doing” meta competency is the domain of action, the muscle of leadership that propels progress. The “being” meta competency is the state from which leadership operates, and thus is the platform from which the other meta competencies spring. **The “being” meta competency is also the gateway to a greater Being, a source of eternal wisdom, creativity and resilience. **The Neutral Witness is the stealth super power that helps leadership build all four meta competencies.
Leadership evolves through a five-step cycle of change: 1) Awareness/Desire to Change 2) Map the Territory 3) Seek Opening/Disrupt 4) Experiment 5) Practice. Thus, leadership becomes conscious of the strengths and limits of how they see/do/connect/be, disrupts their current routine, expands their repertoire of strategies, and builds the successful strategies into habits through practice. This expansion of a leader’s ability to see/do/connect/be is what enables them to envision, enact and enroll more powerfully to create change aligned with their desired outcomes and purpose in a broader array of contexts. This process of learning is supported by our neuro biochemistry. While this learning can be accomplished alone with conscious and disciplined reflection and practice, the process can also can be accelerated through targeted coaching and/or engaging with purposeful communities of learning.
Thus, Consilience offers a model of leadership that bridges the every-day performance imperative of leaders and the deep understanding of self that is foundational to sustained performance in the external world. Furthermore, it pulls the thread to link the deep internal knowing to the expansive all-knowing, illuminating the connection between leadership and spirituality that so many leaders experience intuitively. As summarized above, this model postulates a definition of leadership and what good looks like. It offers The Performance Prism with its simple “three legs of the stool” (ideas, relationships, action) that can be used diagnostically and prescriptively to understand and improve performance in the external world. It introduces four co-arising and co-created “meta competencies” of seeing, connecting, doing, and being, which fuel leadership development and performance. Through the fourth meta competency, being, it offers a gateway to the greater Being, the domain of unlimited potential, creativity, wisdom, and well-being. It introduces the stealth super power of leadership, the Neutral Witness, that catalyzes development of all four meta competencies. It outlines five stages of change in an ongoing cycle that underpins enduring development. Finally, it shows how this model can be practically used by leaders themselves or by leadership advisors to enhance individual and collective leadership development and performance.
This model has been gestating for thirty years, as I have worked with executives and teams across cultures, industries and sectors, in organizations of all sizes. I have felt compelled to express it in writing, because there have been important underlying currents to my work with clients that I could sense implicitly, but could not articulate explicitly. Not surprisingly, the process of writing has further honed and refined my understanding and my practice. The title, Consilience, the discovery of common findings among independent disciplined, still rings true. I am constantly energized as I read theories across the fields of leadership development, organizational dynamics, interpersonal dynamics, psychology, neurology, biology, chemistry, theology, and spirituality and can see how they fit into this model. While I would like to point to this as evidence that validates the model, I understand that it may also be evidence that my confirmation bias continues to be healthy and active. Thus, I offer this model to other leaders and advisors, so they can examine it, try it on for size, find the ways in which it resonates and doesn’t, and in the process challenge and refine their own leadership model. We are all leaders of something and the imperative has never been greater to develop leadership that can envision a sustainable world where wisdom, love, and compassion reign and enroll humanity to enact the changes necessary to manifest that vision.
© 2021 Carolyn Volpe Cunningham