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DCE Magazine

The Four Faces of a Modern Leader

Winter 2018

A few days before Hurricane Harvey hit, DCE instructor Armin Pajand moved to Houston to become associate director for Leadership Development at Doerr Institute. Newly arrived and facing a chaotic situation, Pajand immediately put his skills to work in a most unanticipated way — helping to organize over 2,000 student volunteers in a massive clean-up and recovery effort in a matter of days.

“Our team was mobilizing and coordinating volunteer efforts out of our office at Doerr Institute for New Leaders,” said Pajand, a global leadership consultant. “It was a success because of a purposeful collaboration with partners such as the Center for Civic Leadership and our student association at the university.”

It was an example of Pajand's innovative philosophy — one he has taught business leaders worldwide. Effective leadership requires adaptability, flexibility, and a need to craft creative solutions to shifting circumstances. With the global economy in a state of continual disruption, business leaders must take on different roles and adjust on the fly.

Simply put, using Pajand's framework, you need to be able to play multiple roles as a leader. At times you need to be a diplomat and bring others along; and other times, maybe a Sherpa when uncertainty creeps upon you.

“We are going through a paradigm shift where disruption and accelerated change have become a new norm,” Pajand said. “Most industries are seeing their revenue model being threatened by other competitors, technology is evolving and globalization is changing how businesses operate and network. More than ever, leaders need to learn how to adapt very quickly to unforeseen situations.”

To bring focus to the shifting role of a modern leader, Pajand and his colleagues, including Dr. Ken Brousseau, the CEO of Decision Dynamics, developed the Four Faces of a Modern Leader — Sage, Sherpa, Diplomat and Marathoner — a practical framework based on his global consulting and research.

They form a basis for Pajand's new DCE course, Leading from Within. Students are tasked to take on different personas to devise creative solutions to an array of challenging and realistic situations. It's all about finding effective ways to adapt and thrive in today's business world.

“The Four Faces emerged from both our research and experience working with leaders around the globe,” Pajand said. “We came across four types of leaders who have been successful in dealing with challenges that a modern leader faces. Our goal was to bring simplicity and focus to enhance retention and application of the content on the job.”

Are you a Sage, Diplomat or Marathoner?

Let's say you're a middle manager facing a difficult and uncertain situation that requires vision, selfdevelopment and growth — all qualities of a Sage. These are most effective when looking inward for creative and innovative solutions.

Sherpas are best at charting new courses and paving the way for team success. “Sherpas exhibit courage. For them, opportunities outweigh the fear of failure,” Pajand said. And since more work is being accomplished through networks of teams (teams of teams), the Diplomat is necessary to bring opposing viewpoints together.

Diplomats are socially astute, good at reading people and picking up on signals, especially in situations where clashing views challenge collaborative teamwork. It was Pajand's group taking the role of diplomat that helped make the Harvey recovery effort a success.

“Diplomats appreciate others’ dissimilar views and perspectives,” he said. “They accept discourse as inherently beneficial, and in their interactions with others strive to create win-win-win solutions. Diplomats are good at navigating multiples of most everything — products, locations and markets.”

Ultimately, a leader needs enough stamina and determination to plow ahead and achieve difficult, long-term goals. That's when a Marathoner is needed, someone who can maintain momentum without losing mental energy.

“Marathoners maintain momentum through encouragement of others’ accomplishments and progress,” Pajand said. “They are singularly focused yet have the ability to toggle back and forth between strategy and tactics.”

Leading the way

Designed for emerging managers and supervisors, Leading from Within is an innovative 10-week online course that teaches flexible leadership skills and builds confidence through role play and interactive projects. The course, part of DCE's Modern Leader program, follows Pajand's experience-and-feedback teaching model.

“I believe in learning from direct experience,” Pajand said. “Experience forms 70% of learning, formal education is about 10%, and 20% of expertise is learned from your peers. Students will get experience dealing with real-world situations while getting valuable peer feedback along the way.”

Participants will create adaptable strategic plans, learn how to delegate and utilize their resources effectively. Each week they get a different scenario, a challenge they need to navigate by taking on one of the Four Personas.

After recording the results on their phones, participants post their projects online, where others can offer feedback, Pajand said. “I might tell them that the director just walked in with a complex problem that they need to solve as a sage, or maybe a diplomat, and then they record their solutions.”

Leading from Within is a critical first step, since few placed in a new leadership role are prepared to succeed. According to statistics from Korn Ferry International, 80% of first-time managers fail at their leadership positions, mostly due to a lack of experience playing a multitude of shifting roles, Pajand said.

“Most middle managers aren't ready or prepared,” he said. “Leaders have to deal with a lot more change in a much shorter time span than in previous eras. They face circumstances that require doing things differently and embracing change.”

Learning to adapt to the Four Faces can be a highly effective tool for navigating the winds of change — whether it's the global economy or the climate.