Renaissance Manager, noun : A leader who studies and incorporates as many aspects of life as needed to effective inspire others to be leaders
When Erik Spoelstra arrived for practice during the 2015-2016 season with the Miami Heat basketball team, it never occurs to him that he needed to convince Dwayne Wade to come to practice. Wade showed up without being told to do so because he was enrolled in the idea of what it takes to succeed. The coach of a youth basketball team, however, spends as much of his time convincing the players to show up to practices and games as he does teaching them the fundamentals of basketball. Creating the mindset of a team that is empowered and enrolled in an idea of success is essential to managing the influence of personality traits, being a Renaissance manager, and getting out of the box.
Managing the Influence of Personality Traits
There is a certain and altogether unique comfort in a particular setting for each of the seven billion plus persons on the planet. Combine this with a gradual change over time and each person’s ability to interact becomes as unique as their genetic code. In order to master leadership, it is imperative to dive into how who we are as individuals influences how we see the world, and accordingly how we react to it.
My extraversion and neuroticism levels were significantly above and below the comparable standard, respectively; thus, in situations where others are lacking the confidence to really take charge, I am the one to say “I’m it.” Combining this with low neuroticism can allow me to capitalize on taking negative feedback for and from the group members while maintaining a calm demeanor. This translates well into any organization or group I work with when creating new opportunities that will most certainly include change. As change is not easily assimilated by everyone, the ability to naturally assert myself into leadership and tolerate negative situations will help to further see the positive possible outcomes.
In a previous consulting job, I used the Big Five Personality test to assess the entire management team to analyze how they work together and individually. I felt a bit powerless with the information, having only given the feedback to them with what the results meant in a comparative sense. Having a greater idea of the mindfulness involved by each member of the team, I can show individuals how that mindfulness can help them to purposefully react instead of naturally react. This mindfulness is the key to giving power back to each manager that was previously lost to their personality-driven, and often more emotional reactions to situations. Each of the five personality traits are “a predisposition – a preference – and like any other predisposition, we can choose whether to follow it or not… provided that we recognize that it’s there” (Olver, 2015a).
During recent projects, I have approached my preferred learning style, the define mode, with much more enthusiasm. My extraversion can influence others, especially if this is not their preferred learning style. A cycle forms when each member retreats to some degree during parts of a project that spotlight their non-preferred learning styles. In my non-preferred learning styles, I can invoke the amplified extraversion to really generate myself as significant contributor. The ultimate goal is to bring out and sharpen the strengths in others and inspire them to identify and improve their weaknesses; being more aware of my own strengths and weaknesses can help interrupt the cycle and show others a path to do the same.
In the past, my extraversion has surfaced as arrogance and an overbearing presence. This more extraverted approach took away the opportunity for others to really put their thoughts into a problem solving situation, especially if they were naturally at the opposite extreme of the extraversion scale. Being mindful of this is a start, but it will also require a delicate balance with sensitivity to personality traits that may naturally collide more often with my own. I will need to, perhaps even preemptively, look at a situation from opposing points of view as well as gather feedback to understand how what I am saying and doing is truly landing with others. Every individual team member wants to feel that what they say and do is important, so appreciating and actively listening to them is my paramount goal to succeed as a leader.
Being a Renaissance Manager
Leading others is not about knowing more than those you lead; it is about inspiring those people to do more themselves. By being so inspired yourself, it saturates the space around you and those you encounter. Leonardo da Vinci was so inspired, showing us that to conquer the unconquerable, we must not simply focus on a single ability, but rather every ability. The Renaissance manager uses these abilities as “tools that will help…discover the unforeseen problems and opportunities of the day and develop novel, useful solutions” (Olver, 2015b).
I know (or at least believe) that there are individuals awaiting an opportunity to improve the education of less developed countries, or perhaps to simply improve a portion of this goal such as tackling education issues or bringing aid to less developed countries. Finding these individuals and enrolling and unifying them into a single goal is where this take-away is most practically used. Finding my all-star players will be about going out, sharing my story with as many people as possible, and seeking out those who are already involved as well as those who are looking for the opportunity. I can truly empower other individuals to latch on to some piece of this goal, create it as they see it, and expand themselves into their own leadership roles.
More specific to consulting, I will be working with teams of managers and leaders who have, in their own rights, created their leadership and learning styles. To use the fisherman proverb, I can teach these managers to fish, but I would like to take the process one step further. I would like to teach them how to teach others how to fish. This could be interpreted as ending the need for my own consulting services, but in reality, not every person will thrive with this material. As I would imagine anyone who has had a job will agree, not everyone is a good manager nor does everyone want to be a manager. With that in mind, there will always be new managers and leaders to train just as there will always be managers and leaders who would rather be managed and led. My capability to grasp this material at a deeper level and pass it on to the next leader will be my veritable footprint on the world I leave behind.
As we learned in this course, the MBA graduates of yesterday’s working world are not taught incorrect skills, but rather taught an incomplete sets of skills. There is an adaptability they are not used to and I will absolutely encounter that gap, as I already have. Just as I detailed out the hurdles in the Design Thinking process that involve the current mindsets of managers I will consult for, the Renaissance management style will be a difficult mindset to grasp by those who came before. I must be open to varying personality types, ambiguity tolerances and mindsets that each person brings into the problem solving process; the Renaissance manager must acknowledge the paradigm shift, his “understanding of the world and his place in it” (Olver, 2015b).
There is a more apparent hurdle for the “brain trust” I spoke of in a previous paper (a mutually invested group formed to utilize Design Thinking to solve the individual problems that each member brings to the group). Just like the individuals that form it, the group as an entity will have blind spots that must be constantly searched for and brought to the forefront of focus. These groups can gain adaptability if I promote the completion of each member’s skillset. Like MBA graduates of the past, people are not naturally adaptable leaders; they must generate themselves as one. Ideally, this group would be formed by individuals who have taken this Renaissance management course, but as previously stated, a practical use of this entire program is the ability to teach it to others. It would be incredibly empowering to my own ability to lead were I to teach this to each of the persons that would establish the group. To expand on this, I can even replace myself eventually to create a self-sufficient group of Renaissance management individuals that can process Design Thinking on their own. This would allow me to form new and eventually autonomous groups.
Getting Out of the Box
Professionals have the tendency to avoid looking dumb in front of their subordinates, coworkers, and superiors. Chris Argyris (1991) proposes that these tendencies are based on a set of values that form the foundation of a theory-in-use, or what behaviors an individual actually exhibits. Argyris says that all-too-often, professionals are “unaware of the contradiction between their espoused theory and their theory-in-use, between the way they think they are acting and the way they really act” (1991). When we adopt one set of values we admit to others, but display another in our behavior, we put ourselves in what The Arbinger Institute (2010) refers to as a box that limits both self-growth and group cooperation. We remain trapped by this box until we can acknowledge it and learn to lead ourselves out.
For consulting, humility appears to be a major determinant of success or failure as a team. By understanding this, along with the defensive reasoning that Argyris speaks of that is so rampant within organizations today, I can approach organizations more tactfully. Having the managers of the organizations reflect on what is happening in their heads, how situations play out before they even happen, I can invite them to look at how they put themselves in this box. Further interactions while in the box only push us further into the box (The Arbinger Institute, 2010). I can interrupt this cycle for individuals by using strategies like writing out a meeting agenda and storyline as a manager sees it going, similar to how Argyris did for one team. Allowing an individual to see the distance between their outward and inward theories, they are empowered to overcome them.
I deal with small businesses in my consulting services, which means there are not typically more than two levels of management. Their team members thus form more close-knit relationships with each other in terms of the entire organization being a family. These smaller organizations have less training capabilities than larger companies, and thus it becomes a greater expense when it comes to employee turnover. Poor performance is often ignored in the interest of not causing a problem which can grow to the point of an employee leaving the company. This idea of being trapped in a box can be taught to these smaller organizations who perhaps feel more helpless to express concern. By having employees and managers be able to identify their own shortfalls, the company saves in turnover expenses. This is an important provision that my consulting services can effectively provide.
As these behaviors create a cycle of subsequently compounded behaviors, an interruption plan will be my biggest hurdle. If employees are inclined to protect themselves from or admit to failures, then holding the mirror up is only half the battle. To get an individual to look into that mirror and acknowledge what they see requires a wholly growth mindset. Creating specific exercises like the one listed above will detail out specific instances where an individual’s “espoused theory” and “theory-in-use” are not the same. By getting specific to a situation, the individual, and thus the team, gains a real-world analysis on where they have been inauthentic with each other.
Abraham Lincoln defined tact as “the ability to describe others as they see themselves.” Knowing how to describe people as such is only half the issue at hand, as we must also show them where they might improve their situation. To complete my Renaissance manager training, I must approach the world as a teacher of how to improve one’s own situation and of those around us.
Olver, J. (2015a). Mindsets (Rep.). Mason School of Business, the College of William and Mary.
Olver, J. (2015b). The Skills and Mindset of the Renaissance Manager (Rep.). Mason School of Business, the College of William and Mary.
The Arbinger Institute. (2010). Leadership and self-deception: Getting out of the box. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.