Leadership confusion happens for many reasons. And the mythical rhetorical separation of “the leader” from “the followers” and that the leader is the one who has the vision knows the way and is the creator of certainty only leads to authoritarian jerks who repel trust from your organization. 

Leadership distributes through an organization, and leadership is an action of :

  • shared map mapping (making sense of the environment/challenge/decision);
  • constructing the creative and restrictive boundaries; 
  • identifying what behaviors and activities are not allowed; 
  • agreeing on how to treat and respond to those that violate the behaviors. 

Confusion is a good place to be, and when confusion happens, leadership emerges. 

What is leadership?

Leadership is the mode of being with other people to improve the present. 

We know leadership. Now, what do we do?

A boundary is detected. 
  • Imagine that you’re working through a project or process, and suddenly you identify something that the team or you can’t cross or figure out. 
  • Or an area that’s either constraining work or enabling growth.
We look for wicked problems.
  • A paradox, a knot that is so entangled we can’t untangle it. And that problem is made more prominent.
  • Work complexity is felt and noticed once we find strong disagreements or there isn’t sufficient time to agree upon a decision. 
  • When we think about VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous), complexity leadership, and other leadership areas, we understand that confusion is what we look for to develop multiple ideas and modes to experiment with what might work and how we respond to what is working.   
We figure out how to work together.
  • Together, we identify and experiment with ways to work, move past, and progress on this wicked problem or challenge.
  • And as we enter this journey, we communicate what is being noticed, changed, and learned. 
  • The effort is to make progress together and learn to avoid or learn how to handle wicked problems in the future. 

At the core of leadership is stepping across boundaries in search of a resolution.

When we run into complexity and challenges as leadership presents itself. And once leadership presents itself, how do we recognize the boundaries, identify and make sense of the paradoxes of entangled knots so that we can work through disagreements. And then people together create ways to work past, work through, work with the progress.

If you’re doing these things as a group or a team, you’re collaborating on these efforts, and then you will start to see how leadership happens and makes sense.

leadership confusion