A new vocabulary for leadership

My experience with the Full Circle Leadership Model

When I first read the post on the Full Circle Leadership model (FCL) what attracted me was the most obvious dimension it offers: a personal assessment tool based on eight types of leadership.

The eight types of leadership, FCL model, by Alanna Irving

As an opportunity to reflect on my personality I couldn’t help but to fill it up quickly — how I love personality tests… Seeing the results on the graph I had that feeling of personal reassurance, I felt understood and that counted, even if it came from a self-assessment tool.

These results were particularly relevant for me as the methodology gave me vocabulary to describe dimensions of myself I intuitively noticed, but for which I had never found terms for. I didn’t even know these competencies were “a thing” that could be valued. Even less did I dear to consider these as leadership skills, as they are not usually valued in traditional hierarchical organisations.

It’s always been clear to me that I’m neither of the classic leadership styles: the dreamers and the hard core doers. In that case, what do I bring on the table?

According to the Full Circle Leadership (FCL) framework, sensing, enquiring and optimising are my strengths. Having this awareness on them allows me to understand many situations in retrospective.

I’ve always liked to make-sense of things, to listen, read, talk to many people about the same topic, listen for clues. I know I’ve always used these skills to navigate through my life, but how do I consciously put them into use in the projects I’m involved in? What type of work makes most sense for me to be involved in? These are some of the questions I’m dealing with at the moment.

At the same time, each strength comes with a shadow that I know pretty well, although I had never named them before: overwhelm, permission-seeking and meddling. How often have I felt overwhelmed by amounts of information confusing noise and signal? How often had I felt paralysed feeling a never-ending need to ask for everyone’s opinion? How often did I waste time improving something no one really needed?

It felt like I had spent way too many years in the wrong box. I was angry. And at the same time relieved, this new frame allowed me to be less hard on myself for neither having world-changing visions nor for being in the doing-mode on all the time.

The second way of engaging with the model was to develop a team profile with my colleague Manel. I haven’t succeeded yet in having a team session on this, but I did my guess from our experience of working closely together for the last few years.

The result was quite complementary, something that is obvious to both of us.

Our partnership has always been based on that complementarity and we’ve learned to appreciate the other’s skills, even if sometimes it’s easier said than done.

The most interesting step of this practice will be when we put together what I think of my profile and of his with what he thinks of his and my FCL profile. It’ll be a discussion about different ways of seeing the world.

Manel and I in one our first workshops together

I’m sometimes afraid of my contribution to our work, because I have the feeling that his strengths are more visible than mine and sometimes I’m not sure about the perception he has of the value I add.

The only mechanism to visualise contributions (including diverse ways of seeing the world) and to learn to appreciate each others’ strengths is conversation, making invisible mechanisms explicit. I love the Full Circle Leadership model because it provides a frame to start these conversations in a constructive way.

As a third perspective offered by the model, I reflected on the different ventures I had started alone or in teams in the past six years. I could very clearly sense a pattern in many of them: I love to learn, do some research, enquire, understand how people feel, reflect with them and once I’ve made some sense for myself on a particular topic, my organic energy often stops. So far I’ve been mostly contributing to other people’s visions, but when it came to my own ideas, I was not able to get the collective momentum (that’s the capacity of a visionary) nor was I able to lead the operational push. And so I would find myself looping again and again in different topics and areas: sensing, enquiring, prototyping and at some point changing the subject of my interest after one or two years, sensing, inquiring, getting discouraged by some operational thinker and back to sensing again.

Full Circle Leadership model as a project life-cycle tool, by Alanna Irving

Understanding this pattern helped me realise of a few things:

  • Being clear about specific project-phases and what is required in each of them
  • The need to be honest with myself about what phases my strengths are mostly at use, in what phases I might have to make a bigger effort and in which ones I’m basically learning more and contributing less.
  • Understanding in what phases is good to work with what type of collaborators
  • It makes me cherish the differences with my colleague even more understanding that this complementarity is great and something to be grateful for, but also that it needs conversation to understand the other person’s needs.
  • It’s been great for me to reflect through the Full Circle Leadership model, but I need to bring it to the rest of teams I work with so that it can really fulfil it’s purpose. That’s a “note to self”.

And as a fourth perspective on the Full Circle Leadership model, it gave me a lense to understand Ouishare better, the organisation I’m a part of. We’re good at sensing and enquiring and we’re not particularly good at operationalising and probably, above all, at maintaining. Hardly ever anyone wants to repeat a project. Exploring new territory is one of our characteristics and , at the same time, a challenge as this comes together with high hidden costs.

How might maintainers and operational people feel in such an organisation where they are in a minority and where the energy is continuously focused on new projects?

How can we keep them in the organisation? And how can we involve them at the right stages of projects ? How can we respect and foster the diversity in our network to make it more resilient?

This is just my take on looking briefly at Ouishare through the Full Circle Leadership lenses, how would my colleagues see it? How would they estimate theirs leadership styles?

Ouishare Fest, Barcelona, 2017

These are some of the questions that open up for me when I apply the FCL framing to its four dimensions: personal, team, project and organisation.

I hope to keep digging into it and spreading the word of this tool that opens so much complexity in such a simple way. In my opinion it is a much needed approach towards inclusion, care and real collaboration.

New Economy Explorer #Ouishare #OrganisationalTransformation #CommunityBuilding #Feminism

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