Greetings readers! I have been spending some time lately watching Transformers on Netflix. I just finished Transformers Prime season 1, and just starting the original Transformers, Season 3. I have seen seasons 1 and 2, and the original Transformers movie often (because I owned them on DVD) but never really got into Seasons 3 and 4. The reason I share this with you because of the concept of “The Matrix of Leadership.” You see, Optimus Prime was given the Matrix of Leadership – it was bestowed upon him. Much like the Rings in the Green Lantern Mythos, Optimus Prime was bestowed and chosen to be the leader of the Autobots. Not necessarily the because he was the strongest, but because of his character. I love the concept of the Matrix of Leadership.
As a math major, the concept of a matrix has a completely different connotation for me. As I was doing research for a training session I found a matrix that was pretty thought provoking. It is called the “Johari Window.” A link to Wikipedia here:
Now this was also an episode of Fringe that many of you watch, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. From a relational approach to how we do life, I love it. Originally it was used primarily to help people better understand their mental instability, but today, I think the matrix is helpful in the context of leadership. Here is the matrix:
So let me quickly explain it to you. There are things about you, that you know. The more self aware you are, the more quadrants 1 and 3 grow and the less quadrants 2 and 4 become. The other dimension is what others know about you.
For example, most people who know me, know I am passionate. I know this about me too. This would fall in quadrant 1. I am pretty open about being passionate. Next, there are things people know about me that I don’t know about myself. These are things I am blind to. I should know them because it is apparent to others who meet me, but I cannot see them. There are ALSO things I know about myself, but I keep hidden from others. Finally, there are things both unknown to me AND unknown to others.
The idea is that the sizes of the quadrants above change over the course of time. In a new relationship, Quadrant 1 is small. A communication and interaction increases, quadrant 1 becomes bigger and Quadrant 3 begins to shrink. To a point. Often times, there are limits to how big we are willing to allow Quadrant 1 to become. Many folks think keeping things hidden is a bad thing. However, there is always a balance and appropriateness.
Consider your staff. How often do you think their quadrant 1 is a little TOO big and maybe they should increase quadrant 3? And how many staff do you feel have too big of a quadrant 3 and just wish they’d open up? In looking at power differentials, RAs SHOULD have some things hidden from their residents. RDs SHOULD have some things hidden from their staff. This is healthy and normal. There are things my wife knows about me that others do not.
On the flip side, there are many folks who dwell in quadrant 3 – we put up fronts. We wear “masks” and pretend to be people were not. All in the hopes that people WON’T find out how scared we really are. How much we lack confidence. How much we’ve been hurt in the past and we won’t allow it to happen again.
Ok – that was the easy side. Quadrant 2? It takes a lot longer to shrink. It requires putting oneself in position to receive open and honest feedback. It requires people who care enough about you to reveal to you the things they see that you might not. People, in general, and mostly not open to feedback about their blind spots. Give me feedback in my open and hidden areas? Fine. I can handle it. I know those things. But tell me something I DON’T know? I’m likely going to get defensive and use a variety of behaviors to close off feedback. (Torbert, 1987)
Quadrant 4 tends to change most slowly of all. It is often a very large quadrant than greatly influences what we do. Yet many people totally close off the possibility of learning about quadrant 4. The reason for this, is because we tend to not put ourselves in risky situations – we tend to take the safe route – where MAYBE someone will figure out what we already know. But to put ourselves in a situation where we’re not sure how we’ll respond? That’s risky. Open ourselves up to a situation where someone might tell us something we’re not aware of? Pssh.
Take Ryan. You know, the guy who was writing this blog. Until he took off. To Afghanistan. You want to learn about quadrant 2 and Quadrant 4? Read Ryan’s new blog http://geekinafghanistan.com He is basically writing about his journey of discovery to decrease his quadrant 2 and 4.
To me, this is the true Matrix of leadership – to go into a realm where we allow people to know us. Where we hide things appropriately (cause again, do my RAs REALLY need to hear about ALL the things I did when I was 18? Maybe one or two stories, but they don’t need to hear EVERYTHING). But where we also allow for risks. And we respond to our blind spots in a way that helps us discover more about our own self, and we become more open and more self-aware.
People make great efforts and use a great deal of energy to hide, deny or stay blind to their own values, motives, and behaviors. Especially when they are inconsistent. The worst thing to have someone call you? A hypocrite. Why? Because it cuts to the core that we may not be as self aware as we’d like.
As a result of our efforts to hide these things, our quadrant 1 begins to shrink and others begin to enlarge. But when we focus more on increasing quadrant 1 (to a degree) the others tend to shrink. We can then spend more energy, skills, and resources towards building healthy relationships. For me, when I got married, my quadrant one began to grow at an exponential rate. My wife knows me, sometimes better than I know myself. There isn’t much in my 3rd quadrant with my wife. Most of it is in quadrants 1, 2, and 4. And because of this, more of my energy can be spent developing real and authentic relationships (instead of trying to remember what I’ve got hidden to who). For me (and others) this also happens when you become connected to something spiritual – the concept of being known to someone greater than yourself teaches you more about yourself when you are put in touch with things you are blind to. And the larger your quadrant 1 is, the more openness, trust, and learning there is.
So, dear readers, I challenge you – you don’t have to move to Afghanistan. But start to explore quadrants 2 and 4. Put yourselves in situations that challenge you. Diversify the people you hang with and allow into your life – they just MIGHT see something about you that you are unable to see yourself. And, like Optimus Prime, you’ll find there is more to you than meets the eye.