Leadership and Working Out loud

The Working Out Loud Week has seen a wide array of generous sharing. The reads have been insightful and have added momentum.   I found this image in this tweet from Helen Sanderson crediting Jon Ralphs. I thought it to be brilliant and that it captures the essence of the idea, rather well.


But first, some thoughts on leadership in the connected world.

That the connected age we live in, is spurring change and that ‘leadership’ needs a new bag of skills, is a story that has been told so often that it begins to sound cliched and trite. Successful leaders who grew into their current roles on the back of work practices that they learnt and practiced in an erstwhile command-control era, dominated by hierarchy and position, will take a while to change. Organisations that they lead, will perhaps take longer.

Over many cups of coffee and several rounds of conversations with business leaders across industry, I have broached the topic of ‘working out loud’. The good part is this : In general, leaders see the need and appreciate the idea. It is not dismissed as a figment of theory. Of course, there is inherent discomfort with working out loud, themselves. It seems too much, too quick and too difficult for several leaders.

The leader being the ‘perfect’ person, who says ‘profound’ stuff (and nothing else) seems to be a pronouncedly unstated refrain! Thats the mental model that dominates. A leader comfortable with wearing the vulnerable side of himself/herself in public, with a transparent mindset to generously share and grow with (and grow the) the wisdom of the enterprise, is a tough proposition for many. In my opinion, that change in the leadership narrative is yet to translate into ground level changes.

To grow through the various life stages means having pimples, warts, dead skin and such else. It is raw and no amount of ‘treatment’ and ‘glossing over’ is going to eradicate the awkwardness that it can bring under the arc light. But in its raw element, lies reinforcement that growth indeed is occurring. As long as we live. Proof that life is perpetually in ‘beta’ mode.

To accept it and to lead with grace and impact, in the new age, demands a proficiency in a way of working that is markedly different. A way of working that is inclusive. Transparent. Authentic. One that has its foundations on generous sharing and deeply moored to faith in communities. Which is exactly where “Working Out Loud” fits in.

Last week I wrote about Process Facilitation as a key work skill in the times ahead. Working Out Loud is another arrow in the leadership quiver of the future. Something that young and aspiring leaders definitely need to add to their repertoire. It expands horizons and leads to fortuitous opportunities.

Now, for some background.  Context and people whose work influence me.

Harold Jarche through his evocative Seek-Sense-Share framework got me acquainted with the importance of “Narration” years ago. The more I thought about it, not only did it make more sense, it felt like it was the need of the hour. His work, ideas and thoughts have created shifts in thoughts and action! If you havent taken his PKM course yet, you sure must consider it.

Sometime in 2013 I happened to meet John Stepper in a conference in Berlin and post that, I got more familiar with term and the set of basics of #WOL. More conversations over the next few months lead me to the works of Austin Kleon and Jane Bozarth .

The basics of Working Out Loud as enumerated by John Stepper are captured here. My own post on the same is here

A couple of months ago, embodying the true spirit of Working Out Loud, John shared a draft of the book that he has been working on with me for comments and feedback. The book is filled with insightful approaches, easy first steps and a step by step guided practice that can aid the beginner and the veteran in the game of Working Out Loud. Don’t miss it!

Look up #WOLYO on twitter for the week that was. John Stepper started it out with a simple pragmatic post. These and several other ideas have helped shape new thoughts and refine existing ones. The thought that this will be an important work skill to possess to excel and stay on the cutting edge of ones chosen craft seems unnecessary to mention

There have been several others who lead the charge on Working Out Loud. Both in refining the concept with thought, active practice and generous sharing around the world. Simon Terry and Luis Suarez are two names that immediately jump to the mind If you are not actively following their work, well do so now. Their work makes a difference!