Elevating Your Dynamism as a Leader: An Instrument Analogy

Ryan Gottfredson

by Ryan Gottfredson

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symphony orchestra at sunset

One of the biggest challenges facing leaders right now is that over the last several years, complexity and tumultuousness have skyrocketed, exceeding leaders’ development and their own complexity and ability to navigate the tumultuous environment they are facing.

I call this “The Leadership Deficit.” And, every organization that I have worked with a struggling with this deficit, whether they are trying to address it or not.

Acknowledging The Leadership Deficit, organizations are facing two options, either:

  • Wait for the world to get less complex (unlikely), or
  • Enhance the dynamism of its leaders

In this article, I would like to explore the notion of “leader dynamism,” and provide some insight on how to help leaders enhance their dynamism.

Leader Dynamism

Over the few years, I have worked with three organizations where the CEO has hired me to develop his/her executive team, but has refused to participate in the executive development program. They both have communicated three things in both word and action:

  • They think they are “developed enough”
  • They believe they aren’t the problem, their team is
  • They believe they can’t change or be developed

In expressing these sentiments, the CEOs are effectively stating that they are not very dynamic.

To help explain what leader dynamism is and what it looks like, let me use an instrument analogy.

What is Your Primary Instrument?

As you know, all leaders are different. One way that I like to think about this is that each leader plays a primary instrument. Some leaders primarily play the piano, while other leaders primarily play the tuba. Each comes with its own unique sound, feel, and style.

playing piano closeup

How do You Primarily Play Your Instrument?

I also believe that leaders have a primary way they play their instrument. One leader who plays the piano might like to play soft and harmoniously. But, another leader who plays the piano might like to play loud and aggressively.

Low Dynamism

Leaders that are not very dynamic stick to their same instrument and play it essentially the same way all of the time.

Medium Dynamism

Leaders that have a moderate degree of dynamism come in some combination of the following:

  • They have the ability play their primary instrument in different ways (e.g., sometimes soft and harmonious, sometimes loud and aggressive)
  • They have the ability to play more than one instrument (e.g., at times they play the piano, other times they play the tuba)

When leaders play their primary instrument in different ways, this is akin to one engaging in a similar style, but with different flavors. For example, they may be a micromanager in all contexts, but for some people they are very authoritative, but for others they are more pleasantly obtrusive.

When leaders play different instruments, this is akin to one having the ability to put on one hat in one context and a different hat in another context. For example, they may be “decision maker” when with their executive team, but “learner” when with their Board of Directors.

High Dynamism

Leaders that have a high degree of dynamism have the ability to play a variety of instruments, and they can play each instrument in different ways.

Stated differently: As leaders enhance in their dynamism, two things occur:

  • They develop more hats that go in their closet (e.g., I might have my leader hat, my spouse hat, my parent hat, etc., with each of these hats being tied to different characteristics)
  • They develop greater ability to quickly take off their hats and put different ones on

The simple reality is that the more dynamic a leader is, the more effectively they can navigate the complex and tumultuous environments that they face.

Improving Leader Dynamism

Unfortunately, as I demonstrated with the three CEOs I mentioned earlier, not all leaders:

  • Are dynamic
  • Believe they can become more dynamic
  • Work on becoming more dynamic

Improving our dynamism isn’t a common focus in leadership development programs. This is because most leadership development programs don’t focus on improving dynamism, nor do most leadership developers know how to enhance leader dynamism.

Leader dynamism can only come about through vertical development.

Vertical development is a form of development that focuses on upgrading leaders’ internal operating systems. It is a focus on improving a leader’s cognitive and emotional sophistication so that they can operate at a higher, more effective, and more sophisticated level.

If you would like to elevate the dynamism of your leaders, let’s connect: Connect with Ryan.

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