Lame duck or flamingo?

February 24, 2008 at 3:17 am Leave a comment

Kenya flamingoesLast week, I ran a 2 day workshop on Leadership, hence less posts. But I thought I’d share with you what I did. Many years ago, I read the Mont Fleur scenarios – four possible pathways to the future for South Africa transitioning from a repressive, apartheid regime to a democratic settlement. In 1991, a multi-disciplinary team of 22 people met at Mont Fleur near Stellenbosch, South Africa to work on possible scenarios for the country’s future. The exercise was facilitated by Adam Kahane (of scenario planning fame). 30 possible stories about the course of events that might take place over the next decade (to 2002) were elicited and then distilled and refined down to 4 possible stories or pathways to South Africa’s future:

  • Ostrich: a government with its proverbial head stuck in the past and not wanting to face up to reality or responsibilities.
  • Lame Duck: a government like a bird with a broken wing; a long transition; can’t get off the ground; an incapacitated government.
  • Icarus: the government embarks on a massive spending spree to meet all the backlogs and needs of the past, and crashes and burns because its quick fix policies are not sustainable.
  • Flight of the Flamingo: inclusive democracy and growth. Just as flamingos take off slowly, economic growth would be slow yet sustainable. And just as flamingos take off and fly together, the government would be an all-inclusive one. Yet, the scenario acknowledges that flamingos’ flight is not always smooth.

What do these scenarios have to do with leadership you may well ask? Good question since they originated in scenario planning. The four scenarios have always resonated with me as archetypes and if you apply them to yourself or leadership you could be:

  • an ostrich – not wanting to have that crucial conversation with your team member who has the attitude from hell; putting off giving feedback; denying that your team is dysfunctional.
  • a lame duck (mmm….a good description for old Dubya!) – someone who is insecure or indecisive, has responsibility but no authority.
  • icarus – impulsive, doesn’t plan or think through things, changes course too frequently.
  • a flamingo – not impulsive, respects collaboration and understands the notion of “flying together”, supportive of team members, a respectful person who takes values seriously.

So I introduced the participants to these four scenarios as triggers for discussion and we explored how leadership would manifest under each. Obviously, you’re hoping that people don’t aspire to be Lame Duck leaders! So once we thoroughly discussed what Flamingo Leadership would look and feel like, I moved onto exploring a particular leadership model that might get you there. This model is John C. Maxwell’s The 360 Degree Leader. It’s a leadership model I particularly like but other models could be used.

Just because you’re not the CEO doesn’t mean you can’t lead and be a leader. You can lead up, lead down and lead across by developing relationships with your boss, your peers and those who report to you; and you can expand your circle of influence by increasing your social network at work for example.

So stuff we explored and discussed was:

  • how do you influence when you might be in the middle of the organisation?
  • what do you do if you’re a Flamingo style of leader but your boss is a Lame Duck?
  • how do you keep flying high like a flamingo and avoid smacking into mountains (organisational culture or politics, working with difficult people etc)
  • what values should the Flamingo leader hold?
  • when might it be appropriate to be an Icarus style of leader? For example, innovation might prefer this style.

We then went on to develop a Flamingo Leadership Charter and came up with the Flamingo Model:

F – facilitate the vision of the organisation, flexibility

L – lead by example, listen, lead change

A – accountability, allow people to grow, adaptive

M – mentor and motive, manage performance

I – integrity, inspire, influence, inform

N – networking, nurturing

G – get the heck out of the way and allow the people you’ve hired to do their job

O – opportunities (seek them out), optimism (don’t wallow in negativity and organisational gossip)

You can can read the Mont Fleur scenarios here.


Entry filed under: Leadership, Useful resources.

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