Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Roles I played in My Leadership Journey

I was introduced to David Kantor's 4-Player model when I participated as a process consultant in  a PAHRODF-funded DILG's Leadership Development Program last year. I was inspired by the simplicity and logic of the model in appreciating and strengthening teamwork. I had a chance to reflect on my own leadership experience and wish to share with you my realizations on how I moved from a particularly preferred player role to  others as my understanding of leadership grows.

First off, let's look at the  model in case you are encountering it for the first time.

Kantor introduced the model in the 70's. It was initially designed for families but was soon applied to teams as the world realizes the importance of teamwork in organizational success.   Here's a direct quote from MIT Sloan Leadership Center website  (http://mitleadership.mit.edu/r-fpmodel.php) on the four roles:

Move — This act establishes a direction and sets the team in motion.
Example: “Let's build Product X. Product X is the best idea out there.”
Follow — The follow act provides support for the move and serves the function of completion.
Example: “I agree with the arguments you've made. Product X is the way to go.”
Oppose — The oppose act questions the move that has been initiated.
Example: “The data don't support your claims. We'll be in real trouble if we go with Product X.”
Bystand — Bystanding provides perspective and invites the team to be more reflective. A bystander might bring in data from another team, an historic perspective, or some insight about the operations of the team itself.
Example: “We tried some of these same ideas two years ago and they didn't work. What do we think has changed?”


When I was younger, my orientation was that to lead is to be
mover. I thought that if  you are not trying to move people to a certain direction or not telling them what to do and how to do it you are not leading. This was and still is my favorite role. My strengths finder assessment result particularly say that my strengths theme include being strategic and being an activator. Add communication skills to the brew and you get a leader who can talk nonstop about where he prefers the team to go and how to get there. Playing this role served me well. I got to where I am because of my ability to move people. It also helped me shape people's skills in doing things the way I want them done.  As I grew in my role, however, I realized that there is a price to pay for falling in love with the role and taking the other roles for granted. As you continue to read this article, you will learn the importance of playing the other roles as well. Before I move to the next topic, I want to emphasize some of what I believe are keys to success in playing the mover role.
  1.  Be clear about your goals and strategies
  2.  Prefer influencing and motivating people rather than scaring them into submission
  3. Encourage the manifestation of other roles. Remember that other perspectives deepen your understanding of the situation that will help you fine-tune your strategy.
My next "favorite"  is the "opposer" role. When somebody with higher authority plays the mover role, I almost automatically put on my skeptic hat and punch holes into the moving ideas. I enjoy this role because not a lot of people specially in the Filipino culture can play this role without earning the ire of the boss or peers.  I like to think that I successfully turned opposing without being touted as a villain into an art form (my opinion). Following are some of the keys to success if you like or need to play this role

  1. Don't always be an opposer. Before playing this role, look at the beauty of the idea before looking at the gaps. When the gaps are significant, go ahead and play this role.
  2. If you are a leader with high authority than the mover, note that your objections might be misconstrued as as rejections. Give people room to explain and defend their ideas or propose solutions to deal with your concerns.
  3. Having a clear set of norms for discussing issues that encourages playing of the four roles is very helpful. There is a stigma for playing the opposer role in the Filipino culture. This is why people tend to express their dislike for certain ideas in covert manners and usually only with trusted peers and not with the leaders. This causes dysfunctions in the team.
  4. Listen well and listen with the intent to understand appreciate and shift from opposer to follower when your inquiries are satisfied.
As I mature in my role and develop confidence in my leadership, I realized that telling people what to do and how to do them is very efficient but it comes at a huge price. It's called dependency. When people ask you what to do all the time, it's not a testament to their confidence on your leadership, it is a testament to your inability to develop confidence and leadership in others. I learned that in order to grow leaders I need to play two roles that I am not accustomed to; that of a follower and observer. I learned that to build confidence in their ability to play mover roles, I need to play the follower role as a leader. I need to allow people to try out their ideas. There are a number of times when I have to forcefully stop my opposer nature from manifesting and allow myself to take risk with strategies chosen by my team. Most often, my worries are dispelled by the success shown by my team members.

The keys to being a successful follower are:
1. Recognize the need to play this role.
2.  Stop yourself from playing other roles
3. Trust your team

I also realized that in order to develop new leaders who are skilled in making quality decisions, I needed to be a good observer who ask probing questions and support the movers by way of sharing information that might help them fine-tune their ideas. Recognizing and taking advantage of your ignorance by asking questions that deepen your own understanding and those of your team members of the issue at hand help them make better decisions and improves their skills in strategizing. I now see more wisdom in asking than in telling. The keys to success in taking the observer role are:
  1. Keep an inquisitive mind. look for missing information by asking questions
  2. Bring out your own assumptions by clarifying your understanding and theirs
In a team building session, I conducted last weekend, I shared that when people confidently play these four roles in the team, it is a sign that trust is present. It means that the leaders have developed enough confidence in themselves in their team members to allow people to wear varying hats in team conversations. I encourage you to learn more about this model and how you can apply the same in your team.