In-the-moment leadership: Start with everything at once

In the moment leadership

Often, we think about events in organizations in terms of firstly having a framework, then something to fill within that framework. Here’s a meeting, now we need to make it meaningful. Here’s a team, now we need to optimize their workflows. And so forth.

In in-the-moment leadership, these factors are reversed. First, there’s content – everything from behaviors to relationships and work processes – then structures. Structures aren’t the precondition for content and action; they are the consequences of them. The organization and its events flow to where there’s the most nourishment, life, and movement.

We could call this an experimental approach, but that would be an inadequate description. We often think of experiments as disturbances to an already prevailing order. Or we think of experiments as exceptions, sometimes as trial actions, all the while the dominant structure remains in place.

In in-the-moment leadership, the focus is firmly on the individual concrete event and what can promote it the most, and what can be learned from it

The experiment thus becomes the norm or the anchor. “Start by doing everything possible at once – and continue with what brings the most life.” Meetings don’t improve because we think we can figure them out once and for all, or send the meeting leaders to a meeting management course. Meetings only get better by continuously placing the experiment and learning as the highest context. “Today, too, we’ll investigate how a good meeting looks.”

An example that Promentum has worked with began with an organization naming a series of challenges. It turned into five, which we shaped like a hand – the organization as the palm, the five themes as fingers. Then a series of experiments were initiated, not directly connected to the themes, but still assumed to be significant. New meeting formats and schedules, case supervision, registration of specific events, changed collaboration in the management group, etc. Regularly, there was an assessment of the relationship between themes and efforts, using simple parameters: what seems to give life, inspiration, appear significant, and have momentum. Then adjustments, and so on.

When starting with everything at once, and when it doesn’t happen within a fixed framework, the meaningful opportunities for effect are many. It’s practice that drives, not a calculated idea from leadership or consultants.

It’s fundamentally not that complicated. It’s akin to children’s open play, where rules and fun are continuously formed and adjusted, without either being given beforehand. However, it requires readiness throughout the organizational system, for presence and significance in the specific moments, and to discard the notion of certainty in plans.

The most significant leadership competencies to put into play are:

  • In moments, situations, and events, being able to absorb and sense the whole and not resort to divisions.
  • Being able to stand in uncertainty, let contradictions unfold, and then intervene and mark when something significant and relevant is clear.
  • Being able to discern what creates life from what is merely nice, easy, and convenient.
  • Giving what creates life room to grow, and being able to shut down what has served its purpose.
  • Operating through feedback in many relationships and making actual and practical use of feedback. Operating through responsibility, understood as responding to; that leadership responsibility is first and foremost a relevant reaction (as opposed to a proactive one) to what happens.