Be More Bamboo for Alignment and Power

Jan 06, 2023

Bamboo teaches us to stand tall and proud, even in the face of adversity. To align with our values is to stand tall in our beliefs, even when the winds of change are stormy.

 This month on our podcast - Exponential Potential, Jennifer and I have focussed on alignment as a topic with guests covering many aspects – how to tap into your purpose and values to live a more authentic life. How you can find allies through a network, and how you can use that compass to help you grow in your career.


I love the spinoff of the podcast – it allows me to examine some of the more human elements of leadership, management and change. For me, leaders are both a catalyst in a system and catalysed by the system in which they operate. As new trends shift towards DAOs and other models that make the leader role redundant, I'd argue that humanity isn't quite ready for that.


In other sessions, I've covered the topic of power – often associated with negative connotations – abuse of power and dictatorship. There's a push factor with power that suggests that the one with power uses it to push others to do something they wouldn't otherwise do.

When you look at the expanded range of power sources, you can see how information or expert power, authority, likeability, sex and friends in high places can all tilt the power that a person yields – regardless of how enlightened and progressive a group is.


These dynamics are multi-generational and cut across cultural boundaries. I see them exacerbated in many tech communities – even among those that want to disrupt the power. That's one of the reasons why leadership is (or at least should be) critical in the future of all organisations. 


An organisation has many mechanisms to balance or distribute power to benefit the business or at least more evenly throughout its communities. 


One oft-maligned route is the organisation's governance – its policies, decision-making processes, and rules. These typically written elements offer transparency and boundaries to the masses. Of course, they aren't perfect and aren't guaranteed to avoid power shifting between individuals or groups, but they are good at acting as a grounding rod. They offer those without power the chance to exercise legitimacy (ironically another power) through the challenge or application of sanctioned (accepted) power.


More importantly, and perhaps the most vital of the roles that leaders hold, is stewardship for the vision or direction of a group – to connect them to a bigger purpose. The purpose is a critical aspect for businesses and provides strength to the community, encourages the purposeful allocation of resources and is a benchmark for progress. A leader can leverage purpose to channel the group members' power towards the pro-social goal. They are connecting back to purpose through communication, especially concerning change. A longer-term, broader, strategic objective reminds the wider team that the pivot was part of a pre-determined plan and is an evolution and, therefore, not something unexpected or jarring.


For people within a team looking to strengthen their power base – for security or reward, exerting their natural talents, stamina, ideas, and skills in the direction of a broader goal has a much higher chance of success and boosts their satisfaction levels.


At times, a purpose can help to ride out external shocks. The goal may have more longevity than a change in government, a recession or bad winter. It can justify a more significant pivot, for example, in service or product offering. Purpose galvanises groups, and I've seen firsthand how a more prominent, even moral sense can trump "small p" political differences, hierarchy, and influence to enable many more people to engage with the exercise.


In my book – Change without the pain, I walk through a simple exercise that you can use to dig beneath the corporate taglines and buzzwords to identify the purpose and tailor the language in a way that resonates with you and your team members.


This brings me back to the quote at the top of the article. Bamboo is renowned as a natural material that is both strong and flexible; it is anti-fragile. It can also grow remarkably fast. An organisation can adopt those qualities through its purpose. 

  • It is strengthened by a shared goal and ambition, which it uses to bring together the efforts and resources it has to hand in an aligned fashion.
  • It can flex as it responds to external influences - whether that be people within the team or external to the organisation. 
  • It can withstand rapid growth - the purpose provides a scaffold – a central pillar that ensures that growth is in alignment and likely to gain support from all stakeholders within the business.


My tip for any leader looking to increase alignment is to be more bamboo!

FAQ: Leadership, Alignment, and Purpose

1. What does alignment mean in the context of leadership and personal growth?

  • Alignment refers to the harmonization of your actions and decisions with your core values and purpose, ensuring that your professional path and personal growth are authentically connected to what truly matters to you.

2. How can one discover their purpose and values for a more authentic life?

  • Discovering one's purpose and values involves introspection, reflection on past experiences, and recognizing what drives satisfaction and fulfillment. It often requires examining the moments that bring you joy, purpose, and a sense of achievement.

3. Why is leadership still crucial in models aiming to make the leader role redundant, like DAOs?

  • Despite the shift towards decentralized models, leadership remains vital for providing direction, vision, and stewardship, ensuring that collective efforts are guided towards meaningful goals, especially since humanity values guidance and vision.

4. How can understanding the sources of power help in navigating organizational dynamics?

  • Recognizing different power sources, including expert knowledge, authority, or social connections, enables leaders and team members to navigate and influence organizational dynamics more effectively, promoting a balanced and ethical use of power.

5. What role does governance play in balancing power within an organization?

  • Governance, through policies and decision-making processes, provides transparency and boundaries, acting as a grounding rod that allows for the legitimate exercise of power and helps in balancing power dynamics across the organization.

6. How does purpose serve as a central pillar for organizations, and why is it important?

  • A shared purpose galvanizes team members, guiding resource allocation, and serving as a benchmark for progress. It enables organizations to withstand external shocks and pivot effectively, fostering unity and resilience.

7. What practical steps can leaders take to increase alignment within their teams?

  • Leaders can foster alignment by clearly communicating the organization's purpose, ensuring that team efforts are directed towards common goals, and embodying the values they wish to see within their teams, effectively "being more bamboo."

8. How can the qualities of bamboo inspire organizational growth and flexibility?

  • Like bamboo, organizations that are strong yet flexible, capable of rapid growth while maintaining alignment with their purpose, can navigate challenges and seize opportunities more effectively, ensuring sustainable development.

9. Can you recommend an exercise for teams to explore and align with their corporate purpose?

  • In "Change without the pain," I outline a simple exercise to dig beneath corporate jargon to uncover and resonate with the true purpose, enhancing team alignment and motivation by tailoring the language and goals to fit the team's authentic values.

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