Three Factors that Make Leadership Complex

Many of the organizations I work with are have one or more of the three attributes which make leadership particularly difficult to analyze or understand:

  1. Geographic distribution – employees, customers, and partners are spread around the region, country, or the globe. Each physical location creates separation, challenging alignment.
  2. Multi-disciplinary – staff members have different professional backgrounds. As a result they see their world in fundamentally different ways. For example, medical doctors, space scientists, and macro-economists each have different mental models for how things work. Today it is not unusual for them to work together, and their separate orientations are a real challenge to leaders.
  3. Multi-cultural – when people are from different backgrounds, they have different core values, use different body language, think and express themselves in unique ways.  This is not so much based on ethnicity as it is on cultural micro-climates people are raised in or adapt to.

Each of these factors adds to complexity, challenging the impact of leadership and causing confusion within the ranks. Check the boxes in this table to describe your work environment.

one two three or more
locations
disciplines
cultures

If all your checks are in 1st column, then moving things forward is a matter of gaining shared understanding. You can count on a consistency between agreements and behavior.

If you are primarily in the 2nd column, your success depends on significant coordination and translation. High performance coordination is the skillful and effective use of structure. Effective translation means taking the time to convert one group’s point-of-view to messages that are easy for the other group to understand. Quality translation preserves both feelings and intentions.

If you find yourself in the 3rd column, you are in a non-linear environment. This means that relationships are not straight-forward. This kind of workplace can wreak havoc with you if you expect to apply a cause-and-effect approach. For success you will need to balance a clear intention about what needs to be done with the ability to embrace multiple points-of-view, especially when they conflict.

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