“Most leaders often operate under a mindset of unilateral control where the manager or leader feels responsible and accountable for the team and thus dictates to them,” says Roger Schwarz in his new book, Smarter Leaders, Smarter Teams. “The leader seeks to control a situation and hold onto his or her power, rather than seeking to achieve goals by being influenced by others while also seeking to influence others. Those who utilize a Mutual Learning mindset view leadership as power with others and not over them. The leader looks for ways to share it, and by doing so, you don’t lose any yourself.”

Build othersTo embrace the mindset of a Mutual Learning leader, actively initiate the following eight behaviors:

  1. State your views clearly and ask genuine questions of others. Be forthcoming with your ideas and opinions but display an avid curiosity about what others think. However, convey that asking for input doesn’t mean you will necessarily agree or that decisions will be made by consensus.
  2. Share all relevant information in a timely manner. Share information that does and doesn’t support your view.
  3. Use specific examples and agree on what important words mean. Sometimes you think everyone’s on the same page as you, but they’re not.
  4. Explain your reasoning and intent. Be transparent about the strategy you’re using.
  5. Focus on interests, not positions. To build commitment in your team, identify interests to consider in crafting the solution. Consider possible solutions that meet these interests, and select a solution. Then implement it.
  6. Test assumptions and inferences.
  7. Jointly design next steps. Before beginning a meeting, state its purpose over process; then get to the content. Resolve any disagreement over ‘facts.’
  8. Discuss non-discussable issues. Tell the person the issue you want to talk about and share your reasoning for wanting to discuss it. If relevant, share your concerns about risk, and try to reduce it.  See if they are willing to discuss it. Jointly design how you will have the conversation.

“Remember,” warns Schwarz, “that the purpose of the eight behaviors is to put the Mutual Learning mindset into action. The power of the approach stems from the mindset. If you apply the behaviors without it, others will think you have found a new, more sophisticated way to be unilateral.”

What are your thoughts on Roger’s approach to being a Mutual Learning Leader?