In a recent series of leadership development workshops, a phrase that I used had real resonance with many participants: “The person that controls the frame, controls the game”.
In context this is a “Philism” (as one participant called my turns of phrase) that captures a core leadership quality in a single statement. The idea is that great leaders are self aware and choose their behaviours to elicit the best results from others. This self- and other- management is a key aspect of what makes a great leader. The ability to create a context in which others can operate at their best to support the purpose and mission is critical to ensuring the culture and valued behaviours that deliver overall success.
How does a leader ‘control the frame’?
A leader needs a series of contextual drivers to control the frame. These include:
- Self awareness of their own reactions and available responses.
- Hypothesising the drivers of the others in the frame.
- A deep understanding of behavioural boundaries of culture – the standards and the values.
- A shared belief in the purpose of the group.
- A desire to see others do well, not just a focus on personal success.
- An ability to flex and adapt behaviour in a moment by moment decision path to create valuable contexts for others.
How does this ‘control the game’?
The leader that controls the frame invites the best of the other contributors to be available and delivered. The deep understanding of the context also allows limit setting and appropriate ‘behavioural management’ when boundaries are reached.
Being flexible in how you create and shift the behavioural frame is a powerful leadership tool. Often the question is ‘but why do I have to be the flexible one?’ – the answer is, because you are the leader, and because you can. Imagine if you let someone else in the group unconsciously or unknowingly set how people behave? It can lead to culture disaster, strategy failure and major disunity and disharmony.
The leader controls the game by controlling the frame. Understanding this is a gateway to reinterpreting your leadership behaviours and considerations. No wonder the leaders who understood the principle saw it as such a powerful take away from our sessions.
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