While we’re on the topic of reframing (see last week’s post) I’d like to talk about that process in the context of leadership. Since everyone has a worldview, a belief system, a “frame” through which they see the world, it’s a good idea to invest in a reflection of how your frame influences the way you lead. For example, if you believe that people are generally self-centered and need external motivators you will look for ways to enforce boundaries, dictate appropriate behavior and control outcomes. We know that carrot/stick model from traditional educational and organizational environments. What if we reframe that belief as “a person’s capacity for creativity, exertion, compassion and wisdom is more fundamental than the forces that may dampen or distort that capacity?”

What if we shift our view of leadership from managing tangibles (people and things) to a deeper trust in basic human nature that opens up space for the creative, sometimes uncomfortable, messy process of emergent learning and action? This is a leadership issue because we influence how people show up and the direction that things will go by the way in which we frame our interactions. Our meetings. Our hallway conversations. By our invitations, by our presence, by how we open and close meetings, by the questions we ask and the physical spaces we create, we influence the process. Leadership shifts from controlling the tangibles to inviting ourselves and others to show up fully, and to express more of who we are in our working lives.

Part of what makes that messy is the fact that once there are two people together you have two frames of reference. Three people–three frames….. you can do the math. When we encounter a frame that is different we can solidify the boundary between us or suspend judgment as we learn another angle on the world. That is the beginning of true dialogue, collaboration and innovation. It’s possible that we could create a new, larger frame together.

And the truth is, each one of us only sees part of the picture.