Leadership, like character, is different for each individual. It doesn’t matter if we are autocratic, authoritative, pacesetting, democratic, coaching, affiliative, or laissez-fair style leaders; we all have our particular approach. Our leadership style may be different between work, home and social lives as well. No matter whether we pick one approach or mix it up in an attempt to be appropriate for our given situations, we all make decisions and act in ways directing ourselves and our teams towards some future state we envision as “better.” We are the bridge to the future state whether that be in the companies we work for, our goals in life, or at home with our families.
When interacting with our environments, we all go through what is called the OODA loop. We all make Observations, Orient to our situation, Decide, and Act accordingly. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we participate in this repeating decision loop every moment of our lives and every day our egos get depleted from all the decisions we make. Being conscious of this fact helps us to better manage our energy and connections within our interactions. Like surfers or skateboarders, we ride the wave of unfolding circumstances. We get knocked off our board when the wave gets ahead of us or something unanticipated occurs. We enable ourselves to stay on our boards longer as we accumulate life experiences. Another thing we can do is actively participate in the unfolding circumstances by consciously running ourselves through the OODA loop:
- Observe our environment and available facts without judgement
- Orient ourselves to what’s needed in the moment and the future state to create
- Decide explicitly taking into account the various probabilities affecting the outcomes
- Acting resolutely as if there were no other choice and observe the situation that unfolds (i.e. repeat).
With respect to leadership, the OODA loop may be used to drive more success than failures. To generate more success in whatever environment we may find ourselves in, we have to get inside the situation’s decision loop. As a director in an aerospace company, I find success by adjusting my decision loop to be within the decision loop of the organization. Like changing a frame rate, computational speed, or frequency of decisions, we have the ability to adjust our decision processing to be within that of our environment. This enables us to bridge between the decisions made by others and the data emerging from the changes they or the organization make. It enables us to link our bias for action with the changes in process. The leadership bridge as depicted below provides a mental model to help us keep our eyes open and our actions aligned with the organization, team, or family. Often our situations are not as clear as we’d like them to be. The fuzzy borders of the organizational OODA are an attempt to show that unknown element of our interactions. The general form of the model is similar to a Wheatstone bridge which allows for precise measurement of an unknown parameter. The intent of leadership is to make decisions in the midst of constraints, limited resources and unknown variables in such as way as to bring about a desired future state. And as John Boyd indicates in his published paper, Destruction and Creation, “To make these timely decisions implies that we must be able to form mental concepts of observed reality, as we perceive it, and be able to change these concepts as reality itself appears to change. The concepts can then be used as decision-models for improving our capacity for independent action.” This last idea is of utmost importance to be the best leaders we can be.
To survive our present day systems of business, family and social constructs we necessarily need to be independent. Without seeking independence, we become a cog in the machinery, stuck in our information or misinformation bubbles, and unable to lead. We toe the line. It is the easy path to mindlessly integrate into our particular team, group, faction, or herd. Being stuck within our particular corner of social media and nuanced understanding of the world greatly reduces the probability of us bridging our current situation with our desired future state. We have to lift our heads up and look away from the common to see the gaps between us and where we want to go. We have to keep our heads up as leaders so we can see the unfolding tapestry of reality of our business, family, or social environment. Consciously engaging in a decision process is one way to be a good leader. Continually seeking learning and independence is another more powerful organizing principle. It is by no means the only way. Just as leadership styles vary like individual character, there are myriad tools to help us achieve what we want out of life and our endeavors at work and home. As with anything, we have to decide what tools are appropriate for us and how we want to extract as much marrow from life as possible.
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