by Michael Heng
Blue leadership is the emergent leadership that is better aligned and aptly conducive to this era of uncertainty and permanent turbulent change. Blue Leaders exist to various degrees before I began to write about them. Their eventual discovery is the result of a personal journey which spans nearly 40 years beginning from a student leader through university studies, management practice and intensive PhD research, and as a University Professor who concurrently engages in consulting, networking as well as leading business enterprises as an entrepreneur.
The literature and research on leadership has spawn thousands of books and articles, with numerous prescriptions explaining inadequate and uninspired leadership, whilst offering alternative deficient models for leadership effectiveness.
The discovery of Blue Leaders emerged from the mountain of literature on leadership, strategy, human capital management, social responsibility and business excellence. Sightings of Blue Leaders since are seen regularly in the news, during numerous consulting assignments, in clients and people met during networking meetings resulting from knowing the evidence indicative of Blue Leaders. The inevitable conclusion is that Blue leaders are ubiquitous. You just need to know what to look for to identify them.
This series of Articles hopes to awaken one and all to the Blue Leaders who walk among us. They however do not yet recognize themselves as Blue Leaders. It is time to make conscious their unconscious, and awake the Blue Leadership revolution for the sake of this epoch.
Blue Leadership is nurtured and cultivated by perfecting the skills necessary to materialize its 4 driving passions of Strategy, Service, People and Performance through conscious, deliberate and continuous experiential learning towards the attainment of self-mastery. Blue Leaders are not genetically born since everyone is already a leader of sorts at birth. The leadership journey of Blue Leaders is one of learning rather than training and education. The essential skills of Blue Leadership is learnt rather than taught.
The Tao represents the flowing life energy 精 in the Blue Leader. To the extent Blue Leadership blends, integrates and harmonizes the knowledge domains of its Passions, the first step to achieve self-mastery of the Art of Blue Leaders begins from understanding and invoking the Tao of The Blue Leader in you.
The Tao of Blue Leaders is Timeless, Formless and Intelligent. Together, they describe its existential philosophy, values, beliefs, attitudes and practices devoted to the main purpose of leading people and society to greater physical satisfaction and better access to the opportunities of happiness. The Tao does not try to rationalize or resolve the inherent conflicts and contradictions found in life. It instead generates workable solutions to engage whatever human and social conditions one encounters along life’s journey through the inevitable Terrain of Opportunity. The key to unlock The Tao is Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the capacity and capability to capture holistically the authentic pattern(s) of changing social realities. Self-mastery in Blue Leaders imbues in them the consciousness of action through the sense-making process. It empowers exceptional courage for profoundly insightful reflection to inform fearless engagement and innovative decision-making. The awaken sharpened self-awareness in Blue Leaders strengthens their grasp on the relevant patterns of social reality amidst turbulent change to visualize meaningful coherence of the emergent trends operating in their terrain(s) of opportunity as they weigh the long-term impact of possible robust solutions among available decision options.
The “Blue” in Blue Leadership is associated with commitment, loyalty, trustworthiness and dependability. It is gender neutral, is accepted as a neutral colour for diversity and exists as a constant colour for everyone irrespective of location eg. the perennial “Blue” sky. The “Blue” quality also has a calming and tranquil effect for cool-headedness in the midst of permanent turbulence and change. It personifies the intuitive and innovative Blue Leadership spirit that welcomes and embraces the impending events from the blue horizons ahead.
The absence of The Tao, or Blue Leader mindfulness, explains why many organisations failed to navigate through the permanent turbulence in their terrain(s) of opportunity. Their failure to survive is often due to the inability to escape the past or/and the inability to invent their future(s). The Tao provides the disciplined Way of Blue Leadership for effective and successful navigation through the uncertainty of permanent turbulence change.
Timelessness in The Tao
The Tao acknowledges the absence of consensus as to a definitive concept of time and space. Time exists before people invented devices and clocks to measure its apparent motion. Early mankind pretends to understand time by measuring the motion of the sun and moon across their section of the sky, which is also in motion itself! Even distance or space is first measured by the frequency of moon sightings. Time in fact does not move, we do and so do the sun, moon and everything else. The future is not what will happen; the future is what is happening.
In The Tao, Time is permanent and eternal; meaning it has no beginning or ending. Yesterday, today and tomorrow are just markers on a time horizon which is common to everyone. If yesterday were a different day, and tomorrow yet another, is the future therefore in front or behind us? The “passage” of time is a misnomer; it is actually a space metaphor like the “distance” of space.
Blue Leaders do not use themselves as the static standard reference to the Time element wrongly conceived to be in motion. To Blue Leaders, the past, present and future are concurrent and non-existent, and this awakening leads them to self-awareness in their change management action. They consciously leave “behind” all and every past baggage as they engage the ever-present in the future without them.
Change happens. It has nothing to do with Time. Time did not cause or initiate them nor is Time a part of the solutions in change management. Change is the natural environmental characteristic in the terrain(s) of opportunity. Absence the immaterial and irrelevant Time element, change can therefore be captured in any of its permanent forms to be readily grasped and managed. In today’s era of uncertainty, change manifests and mutates rapidly to produce the permanent turbulence encountered by Blue Leaders and other leaders alike.
Formlessness in The Tao
Each day repeats itself with different happening of events representing the myriad permutations of change. Nothing is permanent except permanent change itself. The conventional management wisdom is to race ahead of change and be ready for it. This approach is both illogical and stupid. It is like waiting at the next or a few stations ahead in order to catch the next train, even though one knows (unconsciously, perhaps) that the train is in perpetual and increasing motion! The only solution to catch and board a train in perpetual motion is to match its speed like the Red Queen in “Alice in Wonderland” who has to “keep running fast just to stand still”. This is also consistent with Einstein’s postulations in his theory of relativity.
Self-mastery in The Tao develops a profound sense of Formlessness in Blue Leaders. Blue Leaders do not mistake motion for action, nor substitute resources for creativity. They derive no lasting contentment with current performance since change continually re-opens and widens the gaps between expectations and performance. Change produces wide fluctuations and unacceptable dissonance in the expectation-performance gap like a runaway yin-yang pendulum where non-action would surrender to the chaos of oblivion whilst conventional action would definitely accentuate the gap.
The Tao in Blue Leaders injects Formlessness into their Blue Strategy. The Blue Strategy playbook is different from prescribed strategies in the literature. Blue strategies are at once and forever formless, like water over terrains. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, the master strategist: “Just as water retains no constant shape, so Blue Strategies also have no constant forms or conditions”,
Water can be “weaponized” into countless forms as in Formless Strategies, but remains basically itself;
The playbook of Blue Strategies do not target change itself but the configuration and dynamism of capricious environmental characteristics in the terrain of opportunity. They reflected and located the genesis of change to certain elements in the terrain of opportunity. The only and most appropriate decisive response to harmful turbulent change is to reinvent its Blue Leadership continuously so as to reimagine, reconfigure and recalibrate its strategic moves without adherence or conformance to any particular management ideology, known models and hitherto successful prescriptions.
The synthesis of timelessness and formlessness in The Tao unleashes implications, consequences and possibilities from the captured trending happening in the terrain of opportunity. Reflective and reflexive learning thereof excites and accelerates the creative energy flows in Blue Leaders to generate the necessary unusual, unfamiliar and uncommon intelligent change response.
The Intelligent Tao
Guided by The Tao, the Blue Leader as a continuous experiential learner constantly reflects on his experience of the timeless world to construct and re-construct new patterns of social reality in harmony with his consummate passions. For the Blue Leader, what is most important about any event or phenomenon is not what has happened, but what it means. The Blue Leader is therefore interested in everything and anything in his terrain(s) of opportunity. The Blue Leader reads listens and feels every intelligence and applies comprehension, reasoning, judgement, intuition, anticipation to draw his own conclusions for the right creative and innovative action.
And The Tao derives actionable meaning for the Blue Leader by using his passions and their orientations to provide a consistent, authentic and harmonious sense-making worldview. The Intelligent element in The Tao empowers conscious reality-learning in Blue Leaders through “knowing what I think when I see what I say”.
As a Blue Leader awakens to the self-awareness of the timeless, formless and intelligent elements of The Tao, he opens the door to his own Blue Leading potential to grasp the holistic learning that enables him to achieve eventual self-mastery when the Art of Blue Leadership becomes him. Blue Leadership is the impact of learning, not training and education.
Learning enhances mindfulness in the Blue Leader. It expands his self-awareness in The Tao. It infects Change upon him as he imagines the many futures made possible by the permanent turbulent mutations in the terrain of opportunity. To the Blue Leader, the future is what is happening and not what will happen. And the “long-term” is not something that will happen one day. The “long-term” refers to some patterns of possible futures that he plans strategically to achieve by dealing with the hazards and obstacles, among other factors, in the terrain of opportunity that block the outcomes of harmony and happiness in personal, social and community life.
The Terrain of Opportunity provides the context for Blue Leaders. Blue Leaders perfect the Art of Blue Leadership as they sense, navigate and execute strategic moves in anticipation and response to uncertainty and permanent turbulent change in the Terrain elements categorised as Shape, Structure, Hazards, Psychometrics, Rules and Value whose confluence embodies and defines the situational character of the Terrain
Terrain of Opportunity
The Terrain of Opportunity is the natural province and domain of Blue Leaders. In his pursuit of business and organizational pre-eminence, his Terrain of Opportunity looks like this:
Refers to the numerous product and services in the Marketplaces. Blue Leaders understand the distinctions between substitute and alternative products. Bloody market competition happens between substitutes, not alternatives. There are just too much marketing communications battles designed against both substitutes and alternatives. Such efforts increase costs and distract as well as diffuse buyers’ attention. Another key is that competitors would know each other personally and intimately. The basic test is simple: if your presumed competitor does not know you exist, you are not his competitor, even if you had benchmarked him to be yours.
Refers to the actors, players – people - and landmarks in your Terrain of Opportunity. Landmarks are strong brands that act often as surrogates for their owners and players. People include inventors, designers, entrepreneurs, managers, executives, workers, service providers, shareholders, funders, buyers (+family and friends), non-buyers and the internet.
Refers to the physical and psychological obstacles, barriers and inconveniences to a more fulfilling and satisfying buyer experience. Include environmental concerns. The cost of market entry is a huge factor in determining choice options for buyers but high entry costs would also spur introduction of alternative products and services. The internet is both a facilitator and obstacle to consumption experience to the extent of its requirements of knowledge, access devices, compliance rules, registration, anonymity and privacy considerations.
Refers to buyers’ preference and psycho-emotional desires derived from their use of your products, including cultural factors. Includes influencers, opinion leaders, media, researchers and lifestyle shapers. They indicate, measure and influence buyer decisions. The impact of marketing communications in their battles for positional advantages is a key consideration here.
Refers to applicable laws, regulations and norms relating to the products and services. Include power brokers, politicians, regulators, enforcers, lawyers, judges, religious minders and advocates. Include corrupt practices. They tend to be common to most if not all buyers, and are relevant and material to the extent that they affect buyers differently and between them.
Often conflated with price, which is merely a surrogate for perceived value. A price level is acceptable and tolerated as long as the price lags behind the corresponding perceived value.
An Opportunity Map can be drawn to summarise and depict the perception of the 6 Terrain elements. The elements affect each other in some limited manner in their interplay and interaction as they blend in the mind of buyers and non-byers. The individual and combined significance of the elements to the decision-making matrix in Blue Leaders depends on their mastery maturity in the Art of Blue Leadership as they deploy and execute their decisions throughout the 9-Action Pathway.
Next – The 9-Actions Pathway of Blue Leadership
Related Earlier Articles:
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