Windows and Doorways

by Bob Elliott, GLA Coach

The view on the hill – from here, and here, and here, and here . . . and leadership teachings.

When I look out the windows on the eastern side of my house I see the Squamscott River – 50 feet away – sometimes flowing in with the tide and sometimes flowing out with the tide. If I go to the western side of the house and look through the windows, I see the edge of the village just beyond the Boston to Portland railroad tracks, and frequently I will see the train going or coming from either city. As I look through windows on the southern side of my house, I see the long driveway winding down to the small neighborhood of three homes, gardens and docks leading out to the water. The view from the northern side of the house looks out on the vineyard, where there are 2,500 vines that supply me with grapes to make handcrafted wines to bring to the local market towns to sell.

One might consider that I live in four different “worlds” depending on which window I am seeing the “world” from. The eastern view provides a context of marine life, fishing as a source of food, an environmental habitat for birds, animals, and insects. It also gives me a context for history – artefacts of the Algonquin tribes; once the sole inhabitants of this very river. The western view provides a context for village life – the post office, town hall, general store, schoolhouse, church and library, where the community connects and cross paths in the day-to-day activities of life – communing. The southern view affords me a context of neighborhood – where we live on the edge of each other’s lives, sharing stories, food, wine, and occasions of celebration and loss. The northern view of the vineyard gives me a context of agriculture – a world of plant science and art, and farming; with its unique terroir – microclimate, soils, elevations, aquifers, and topography. Agriculture also provides a deep and abiding connection to ancient civilizations that grew grapes and made wine thousands of years ago.

If I never left a particular side of my house, and only looked through the windows on that side of the house, I would live like that was the only world I lived in. Being a fisherman, a winemaker, a villager or someone’s neighbor. I would make plans and decisions as though nothing else existed. While those decisions might be sound in a single context, they might prove problematic when the other “pieces” of my life merged together – at times in tension with one another.

Action-logics are like windows looking out at the world – where each window allows for a different perspective. Each offering a possible way to make sense of what’s at hand and how one might take action; as well as an all-encompassing worldview – forming a nice neat package – I think of this as a belief system. In the computer world we call it an operating system – in human beings it is a belief system – they both serve similar purposes and both have advantages and drawbacks. Analogous to the computer operating system, our belief system has a set of imaginary boundaries that keep our thinking and doing within the safe confines of what is held as “the truth” in terms of how to navigate our way to gaining some desired state or condition, or avoiding some set of circumstances.

Some days I look through many windows and have a different perspective of the world around me. Other days I may get stuck looking through one window and have limited access to multiple perspectives. It is like that being a leader as well. When we are able to step back and look though all of the perspectives, we can puzzle together a much richer response to an ever increasing complex world.

The action-logics give us a “birds eye view” of human perspectives. With that in hand we can gain a richer understanding of our own and others’ motives, inclinations and prejudices.  What this all leads up to is choice – when we have options we can reflect and choose an option, or options, that best meets the wants and needs of the situation.

When pulled together the action-logics tell a bigger story about a developmental road map. Suggesting how one’s cognitive development forms over time. Like any map, it is a representation of a particular territory, and makes suggestions as to what we can expect to find if we were to travel there. The action-logics are also representations of a particular way of seeing the world and how we may approach our roles as leaders. The maps are static, a reflection of a point in time, our lives as leaders are dynamic, we must be “in a dance” with what is emerging, and reflective of how that is occurring for us. We call this dance action inquiry. Like any dance we need to stop and listen to the music to be in step with it.

Copyright © 2020 Global Leadership Associates