December 4, 2007

Enterprise Architect Leader = Warrior, Healer, and Tao

In the book the Tao of Leadership by John Heider, the author describes three roles for a leader:

  • Warrior—“leader acts with power and decision” (the Yang or masculine)
  • Healer—“leader acts as a healer and is in an open, receptive, and nourishing state” (the Yin or feminine)
  • Tao—“leader withdraws from the group and returns to silence, returns to G-d…withdraw in order … to replenish my spirit.”

Helder goes on to state that “the leader who knows when to listen, when to act, and when to withdraw can work effectively with nearly anyone…perhaps the most difficult and sophisticated group members.”

In User-centric Enterprise Architecture, we bring together business and technical leaders and subject matter experts; we work vertically and horizontally in the organization as well as with stakeholders outside the enterprise. To effectively lead, collaborate, and communicate with all these group members, the architect ‘leader’ must know when to act as the “warrior” (push for change, results, and be decisive), when to act as the “healer” (listen, be receptive, and encourage others), and when to return to the “Tao” (withdraw and let others reflect or let the process evolve for a while).

In general, a great leader-architect is skilled in these various roles and is judicious on when to use each. If as a leader, for example, you talk when you should listen, or withdraw when you should engage, and so on, you can fall right on your sword (i.e. you’ll fail as a leader, as a change agent, and as an enterprise architect).

The leader-architect needs to be fluid between roles and to engage-withdraw, speak-listen, focus on work-focus on people, stabilize-seek change, push for progress-let things evolve. It’s all a fine line; many would call it a tightrope. That is why few people are truly excellent leaders. Although practice makes perfect!


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