Leading From Anywhere

I’m currently developing some work with Richard Martin, which is giving us cause to examine what leadership is, and how it differs from management. Richard has articulated something helpful which I’d like to share with you.

Leadership can come from anywhere and anyone, whereas management is usually an assigned role. Or put another way:

Leadership: Articulating a vision, setting strategy, inspiring others. Qualitative and outcome-oriented. Whole system.

Management: Focus on delivery, and the organisational and resourcing elements that enable it. Quantitative and output-oriented. Measurement and process.

When I was sketching out the current version of Principles of Work, I got stuck thinking about a suitable image to represent ‘Lead by Example’. Carole suggested I Google ‘leadership’ for some inspiration, so I did, and here’s some of what I found.

Leadership Google Search 1

What an underwhelming response. I kept scrolling and things didn’t get any better.

Leadership Google Search 2

Image after image of anonymous bubble shaped cartoon men pointing, conducting, megaphoning, and striding forth with their legions of dutiful followers. This is not the leadership I’m looking for, and it certainly doesn’t fit with the idea that leadership can come from anywhere and anyone.

I diversified my thinking, starting to include other words into my searches, and I discovered some images of aerobatic display teams at work. I was struck by the many formations these teams adopt, and how frequently, there is no single leader out in front.

Lead by Example copy

I chose this formation to demonstrate leading by example. It speaks to me of trust, and of the possibility that leadership can come into play from any position on the team. As we look at the formation here, it may be that the leader is sitting in the plane at the back – the only position where this whole formation can be viewed from. And as the group switches places, the role of leader can shift too.

How do you define leadership – and what images does it conjure up for you? Let me know your thoughts and I’ll see if I can draw something for you.

Principles of Work – By Hand

In March 2014 I published my Principles of Work, a simple series of things you can expect from me when we work together. This version of Principles of Work was compiled using Haiku Deck, and the simple mixture of brief text and photos struck a chord. To date, the Haiku Deck version of Principles of Work has had over 7,500 views, and is in its second iteration.

As part of developing this idea, Neil Usher recently suggested to me that I could apply a more personal artistic filter to the principles. I love Neil’s suggestion, so I decided to do some tracing and sketching of my own, blending Art for Work’s Sake with the Principles of Work.

Many hours, much sketcher’s cramp, and lots of ink, pencil and marker paper later, I ended up with a series of images I’m happy to publish.

As I developed the images I chose to share them on various social networks and I benefitted from lots of great feedback and suggestions as I went along. The network I am a part of is a lovely, supportive group of people – thanks to each and everyone of you who helped me get this piece of work completed. Although it took a lot of time and concentration, this wasn’t that hard to do, so if you fancy trying something similar with your work, I encourage you to give it a go and I’m happy to help in any way I can.

I’m a big fan of showing your work as it develops, and the next step is to experiment with a video to tell the story behind the images in a little more detail. I’ll keep you posted, and in the meantime, if you’ve got any ideas about what I could do with the original sketches – I’d love to hear from you.

Working out loud, learning all the time.

Martin and Mark

A post about being in a hole, and finding a way out.

Suddenly I stop
But I know it’s too late
I’m lost in a forest
All alone – Robert Smith

The impulse is pure
Sometimes our circuits get shorted
By external interference
Signals get crossed
And the balance distorted
By internal incoherence – Neil Peart

Change is the only constant – A. Smartarse

Sometimes, work sucks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fortunate compared to many people, but sometimes, work sucks. Projects get deferred, postponed, parked and abandoned. Plans made carefully over time, can drift apart in seconds. We all now how that feels, it’s quite common for things to shift, and it’s thankfully less common for so many things to slip at once. Right now, I find myself in the middle of a lot of this stuff. A few short  weeks ago I felt like I was on solid ground, currently it feels more like quicksand. I’m not complaining – just noting this is how it is some times, and it gets me down. I’m only human.

Martin

I caught up with Martin Couzins earlier in the week. Martin is a great guy and we had a lovely, lively conversation. We spoke about all things good and bad, challenging and frustrating, uplifting and depressing. We spoke frankly and honestly. Martin is a great listener, generous in spirit and also with his time. We parted company after a little over 90 minutes, with me in a very different place to when I arrived. Thank you Martin, you are a good friend and I needed to see you more than I realised. My work doesn’t suck so bad.

Mark

As I walked to the tube station to start my journey back to the office, I passed by a guy and his dog. sitting on the pavement near Gloucester Road tube. I saw some sketches at his feet. I stopped to admire the artwork and we started to talk. Mark is a homeless guy, he’s been on the streets for three years. When he found himself homeless, he couldn’t bring himself to beg, and he didn’t want to start drinking, so he decided to make art instead.

Family Tree

As you can see, he’s quite the artist, though he assured me that when he started drawing three years ago, ‘it was all stick men’. I showed him some of my pictures, and he showed me more of his. Two artists (and a dog) sitting together on the pavement outside Gloucester Road tube. I gave Mark a few water colour pencils – treasured possessions of mine, time to pass them on. He offered me the picture of his which I had been admiring, I took it and insisted on paying for it. I tucked £10 under his pencil tin, and he put it away. ‘There are a lot of people on the streets who will have that away if I leave it in sight’. We talked a while longer about our art as our work, and parted company. Thank you Mark, for helping me reconnect to my work and realising, it doesn’t suck so bad.

So what?

Things go wrong all the time. When this happens, I have a tendency to keep things bottled up. This is partly because I’m an optimist first and foremost, and partly because I feel a sense of pressure to comply with a culture of ‘Everything is Awesome’, which often pervades my social networks.

The truth is, you cannot know joy without despair, happy without sad. Life is a wonderfully mixed bag, and to deny this, is unhelpful, even dangerous.

Conversations with good people are a great way to put things in perspective and move on. My day concluded with me finishing a key part of an important project. Thank you Martin and Mark.