I recently came across a distinction that I immediately found to be helpful in looking at leadership skills, leadership styles and the conversations required for exceptional organizational performance.
In the book The Advantage, by Patrick Lencioni (highly recommended), a distinction is made between “smart” organizations and “healthy” organizations.
Smart organizations, as the name implies, make very good decisions in the areas of marketing, strategy, information technology and finance. The people in leadership positions are typically very intelligent, possessing high IQ's, strong cognitive skills and excellent capacity for analysis. These organizations are said to excel in the “decision sciences.”
Healthy organizations, on the other hand, excel in the quality of their interactions, the quality of their collaboration, the quality of their conversations. Healthy organizations promote – even require – robust dialogue and authentic conversation among leadership team members. Vulnerability, self-disclosure and the capacity to acknowledge a mistake or shortcoming are key.
Leaders here understand that a context that encourages openness, healthy disagreement and constructive conflict is a pre-requisite for genuine buy-in and shared commitment toward execution.
Being smart is, in some ways, the “price of admission” for many organizations these days.
Real, sustainable success is more directly connected to leaders’ ability to create a context (it’s not physical, but it’s very real) of authenticity, vulnerability, constructive conflict and mutual respect among leadership team members.
How is this accomplished? Through purposeful conversations, of course!
A substantial advantage is, indeed, obtained through the power of these conversations.