MinnPost has assembled a panel of leadership experts and scholars, who are rotating in commenting on each of the examples of leadership profiled in our series, “Driving Change: A Lens on Leadership.” Today, executive coach Kathleen Allen and Glenace Edwall of the DHS comment on aspects of leadership presented in “Terrie Rose and Baby’s Space model how to raise kids from a child’s point of view.”
When Kathleen Allen read the story about Terrie Rose and Baby’s Space, she saw something below the surface – a leadership style that was not noticeable at first glance.
“It seems like a story about traditional leadership,” said Allen, president of Allen and Associates in St. Cloud, a group that coaches executives in executing change in their businesses or fields. “She’s a charismatic person, she’s got a good idea and she’s making it happen.”
But Allen is more interested in the subtext of how Rose has gone about making Baby’s Space work. It’s indicative of how leadership has evolved out of the 20th century and into the 21st century, Allen said.
“Twentieth-century leadership is about how to control ideas and manpower. Twenty-first century leadership is about how to unleash ideas and manpower,” Allen said. New leaders don’t create energy, they transform the energy that’s already there “and that takes a different set of requirements,” she says.
Allen calls Rose a thought leader, not a traditional leader. Leadership is about being at the edges, not about the status quo. Leaders seek to move the center (or the status quo) to the periphery, which is where leaders like Rose reside.
By noting the lack of early-education policy that focuses on the baby’s point of view, Rose defined herself as an outlier of the early-education policy community, Allen said. When she first created Baby’s Space, she was envisioning reforming the center of the community with her ideas.
But that plan failed, as most plans from outliers do, Allen said. What Rose did next is the mark of true leadership – she adjusted her idea.
Rose networked and created a group of people who would help her keep Baby’s Space on a sound philosophical foundation. Then she found a network of people who helped her get the organization on a sound financial footing. Now that her outlier organization is secure, she can put her attention on moving the center of the community to her position.
Glenace Edwall, the director of the Child Mental Health Division at the state Department of Human Services, has been working with Rose since the idea of Baby’s Space first arrived. She has great respect for Rose’s leadership abilities.
Rose “thinks bigger than the rest of us,” Edwall said. “She’s got innovations at the tips of her fingers because she’s been thinking about these things for a very long time.”
Allen says one difference between leadership in the 20th century and 21st century can be expressed through the transition from a mechanical metaphor to a living-system metaphor. Today’s leaders use networks to achieve their goals. Top-down, mechanical leadership means the source of intelligence rests at the top and everyone else waits around to be inspired. But in a network system, the intelligence resides with the people receiving the information whether in a corporate atmosphere or simply someone downloading information from the internet.
“Rose’s ideas require a shift from the adult’s point of view to the baby’s point of view. Instead of the adult knowing what’s best, the child – who is the one receiving the information – knows what’s best. It echoes this shift between a mechanical model and a living system model in a nice way,” Allen said.
There is another difference Allen noticed. With the shift toward networks, leadership becomes less about driving people to the goal and more about attracting people to your outlier position.
“She recognized that parents won’t be pushed because they like their day-care provider, so she uses attraction to bring people to her program” relying on good work and word of mouth to sell her program, Allen said.
Edwall agrees, saying Rose has a leader’s knack for bringing disparate groups together and making them work.
“They work together and come up with something unique,” Edwall said. “It’s quite amazing.”