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Lift! Towards a positive, comprehensive leadership style

  • 22 June 2011
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

Having looked at Quinn’s management roles, based on the Competing Values Framework it’s time to take a look at "LIFT". Robert Quinn and his son Ryan Quinn wrote this book to show people (and managers) how they can become a positive force in every situation. Fascinating claim, isn’t it? Let’s see how you can lift yourself and others, using the framework and organizational culture types.

"Lift" is about having a positive, uplifting influence caused by your psychological state in which you feel

  1. purpose-centered (clear, realistic purpose),
  2. internally-directed (guided by your values),
  3. other-focused (awareness of and empathy for others),
  4. externally-open (we believe we can improve/open for feedback).

If you experience such a state of mind, you feel lifted and you will lift others by your initiatives, behavior and responses. People will unconsciously perceive your state (by minor expressions in your nonverbal communication) and copy it automatically. Research has shown that states are contagious because of this mechanism.

Lift is a positive state of mind as opposed to the more "normal" state of mind in which we

  1. seek comfort
  2. react automatically based on routines and scripts in our mind
  3. focus on our own needs and 4. are not open to feedback.

Four features to lift any situation

The Competing Values Framework is at the basis of this step towards positive leadership. It makes it easier to remember and to turn yourself into a positively deviant person, whether you are managing your team or parenting your children:

Lift Competing Values Framework

  • Market culture values Competition and results. Hence comes the state of mind to be purpose-centered: I want to achieve ambitious results and make a difference and be seen. (Big Five personality model: Extraversion).
  • Hierarchy culture values Control, integrity and efficiency. Its quality is to be internally-directed: I am aware of my values and try to live my values because action speaks louder than words. I’m assessing not only others by my values, but also myself... (Big Five personality model: Conscientiousness).
  • Clan culture is based on Collaboration. Here you are other-focused. Others are human being with legitimate needs, feelings and desires. (Big Five personality model: Agreeableness).
  • Adhocracy Culture’s keyword is to Create. You’re externally-open: flexible and willing to learn new things, receive feedback and take in new information and perspectives. (Big Five personality model: Openness).

By combining the very best features of the four culture types and leadership styles or personality traits if you will, you will become a person who can create "lift".

Four questions to grow

Should we all turn into the Dalai Lama or Gandhi at once? Easier said than done... It is an advanced and maybe somewhat idealistic strategy. But it is great to strive to this comprehensive level of leading yourself and others.

It starts with becoming very self-aware and understanding what you are thinking, feeling, saying and doing. The Quinns present four questions to help us understand how we can experience more "lift":

  1. What result do I want to create? (This question will help you become more purpose-centered instead of staying in your comfort zone)
  2. What would my story be if I were living the values I expect of others? (This will help you become value-aware/internally-directed instead of automatically reacting to external stimuli)
  3. How do others feel about this situation? (This will help you focus on others instead of on yourself)
  4. What are 3 (or 4-5) strategies I could use for accomplishing my purpose for this situation? (This will help you become more open to external signals, opportunities and feedback instead of persisting/pushing no matter what happens)

The interesting thing is that if a situation is not working out or is inconvenient, you are not lifting anyone. By analyzing the four questions above, you can find out what you need to do to improve and to become a positive force again...

The thing is, you need to balance these four features. The best leaders can switch between role and styles. The most effective organizations can behave paradoxically. You need to have a broad repertory of behavior to be successful.

Stan the manager

An example: Stan is a manager trying to improve his team’s performance but people are tired. They’ve been working hard and are now longing for their summer break. It’s a busy time with projects that need to be finished before people take a vacation. Stan thinks he should give the team members more responsibilities so they will take ownership and feel empowered and motivated. This is what he just read in the latest management book.

So he calls for a meeting telling his team that they can decide whatever is necessary without asking his permission upfront. If something accidentally would go wrong, he will help them solve it afterward, he tells them. The goal is to sell more in this last month before summer retreats. So guys, do whatever is necessary and feel free!

However, morale lowers after this meeting! Team members complain that they are too busy and that Stan is loading them with even more requirements. He’s asking too much.

Stan expected to energize his team... and enhance performance. One of his most valuable team members calls in sick due to strain.

Stan grabs the book "Lift" from the pile of management books. He suddenly realizes that he was purpose-centered (he wanted to empower team members and lift overall performance) but not sufficiently other-focused and externally-open (what did his team members need from him, what feedback did he get during the meeting; sighs, frowns, that he ignored) and maybe Stan was not enough internally-directed. He values acknowledging others and being acknowledged, paying them respect and getting their respect, giving them attention and being noticed himself, but he was so focused on his performance goal and empowerment idea that he didn’t apply these values....

He was comfort-seeking, applying a quick solution from a book, automatically responding to this external suggestion, focusing on his own needs to delegate work and enhance performance and ignoring feedback from his team.

Knowing this, Stan focuses on question 4: What other strategies can he use to achieve a higher performance? He starts to ask how he could facilitate them better. And he designs a   combination of leading those who want to rely on him and giving freedom to the ones who can handle it. He lets go of strict working hours so every team member can choose their best energy working hours. He starts to listen, to explain more (why they really need more performance, what’s the difference between working hard en smart) and his team feels relieved. They are acknowledged and have a great month performance before their summer retreat.

Check these questions before you go into situations that matter! Lift is more important than ever before: We need a positive mindset in challenging economic times with all these changes in our contemporary societies.

Copyright: Marcella Bremer