Only, this really wasn't the leader's intent. He really did want them to wrestle together to find solutions to creative challenges, and he really didn't already have an answer in mind. But no matter how often he would say that, the team didn't seem to believe him. They would keep trying to uncover the "right answer" as he saw it rather than offering their own unvarnished opinions and ideas. All of this was doubly frustrating because this happened to be a team full of creative geniuses!
So what was really going on here?
It's hard to unravel dynamics like this without first understanding the notion of "rank" on a team. Rank is a way of describing a person's level of authority on the team within a particular arena. Every member of a team has some form of rank. The kind of rank we're most familiar with is positional rank. My friend in this story, for example, is the boss over everyone on his team. So he has the highest positional rank.
But there are many other kinds of rank that exist on a team (or in a relationship), and these often carry more weight than positional rank. For example:
- intellectual rank (who's the one that the team holds as the smartest among them?),
- emotional rank (which team member's emotional state matters most to the team?),
- spiritual rank (who is seen as the wisest spiritually?),
- social rank (who is the one who holds the group together as a relational community?)
- and so on.
So back to my friend. His problem was that he was carrying too much rank in too many arenas within the team, and that was effectively shutting down the team's capacity to function creatively. Besides having positional rank on the team, he also had the highest intellectual rank, and the highest emotional rank. He was the boss. He was seen as smarter than anyone else in the room. And everyone on the team was bent on keeping him emotionally happy. No wonder the team couldn't have open creative discussions!
Now that my friend knows about his rank (most people are unaware of the rank they hold within a team), he is able to consciously "give it away" it to others on the team. For example, he's shifting the organizational structure so that others on the team have more positional authority. He's also begun to consciously defer to the team's collective intelligence in many key decisions as a way of transferring his own intellectual rank to others on the team. Finally, he's learning to better manage his emotions to avoid inadvertently hijacking the team's creative process when he feels frustrated or sad.
What about your team (or teams)? What rank do you hold on the team?