Mano vs. TelescopeThis post is the second in a series that began here.

We are summarizing the findings of a one-year study of workforce leadership and through that process, we have identified six practices next-generation leaders are using to be effective; a new model of leadership we call WEadership, in a nod to its collaborative nature.

Practice #1: Adopt a Wide-Angle Point of View

Where do effective leaders look for new ideas? For better ways of doing things?

In short, everywhere.

We found that effective workforce leaders look for new ideas in unlikely places—in completely unrelated fields of practice and peers and neighbors alike—and find creative ways to apply their resources and expertise. They focus on community problems, not just workforce problems.

It sounds simple but this kind of ‘opening of the aperture’ has fundamentally changed what many workforce leaders do. In fact, we’ve identified 3 practices WEaders employ to broaden their vision.

Embrace Long-Term

First, today’s workforce leaders embrace bigger, longer-term agendas. We talked to workforce leaders about industry clusters, broadband penetration, literacy, school reform, social innovation, poverty, entrepreneurship, and dozens of other challenges that comprise their to-do lists. Traditional issues like jobs, skills, and wages still anchor their work, but today’s workforce priorities can take many forms and require action on different time horizons.

Embrace Diverse Thought

Second, and following from the first, leaders are working with more diverse partners than ever before—not just economic development and education partners, but industry and professional associations, libraries and cultural institutions, universities, incubators, even grassroots and neighborhood groups. Leaders work with these partners in different ways—not just as Board members or political constituents (or competitors), but in a myriad of roles that reflect the multiple dimensions every person and organization brings.

Embrace Diverse Methods

Third, leaders are actively seeking ideas from other professional fields—even those completely unrelated to workforce or public policy—that have the potential to impact their own performance or field of practice. Whether through organizational or community book clubs, attending conferences or events in other professional fields or disciplines, or adopting new ideation, experimentation, or learning methods within their organizations and networks, these leaders know they do not have all of the answers and are employing methods that will both introduce them to new ideas, and engage their staff, partners, and communities in solving important community problems.

One leader convenes monthly discussion around TED talks; another asks staff to convenes openspace conversations to encourage sharing among staff and partners; several take (unpaid) sabbaticals and offer them to staff; and some regularly return to the classroom (in-person or virtually).

These leaders share shift strategies as new information changes how they see the problems they are working on. They share a commitment to doing what they can over doing what they’ve always done and a willingness to let others be in charge.

They know leadership is a shared role, and not just a title.

Is your own view wide enough? Are you gaining insight from innovators in other professional fields? Your own employees?

Photo credit: achichi on Flickr

________________________________________

Last Week: An Introduction to WEadership: Workforce Leaders Remaking Policy and Redefining What it Means to Lead

Next Week: WEadership Practice #2: Build Diverse Networks

Kristin Wolff and Vinz Koller, of Social Policy Research Associates, authored the WEadership Guide (August 2011), the result of a one-year US Department of Labor study of leadership in the field of public policy concerned with work and learning. They were thrilled at the opportunity to link their professional pursuits (public policy) with their personal commitments to positive social change and innovation, and look to increase, accelerate, and intensify these connections within the field of workforce in the coming months. The entire project is documented at EnhacingWorkforceLeadership.org. Follow it at @WFLeadership.

Kristin Wolff
Policy wonk and social innovator committed to making people (and their talents) central to economic, community, and workforce development policy and practice; and playing a role in inventing public policy 2.0 at every level. Connect with her on her LeadChange Profile, LinkedIn Profile, Twitter, or Facebook too.
Kristin Wolff