A Walk-Through for Applying Leadership Orientation Domains

This post accompanies OODA and Leadership in Cyberspace, posted 8/15/2016

How could operationalizing Leadership Orientation Domains (LODs) to inform Adaptive Leadership for Secure Cyberspace Operations (ALP-SCO) with Boyd’s Orientation component work in practice? As we’ll see in the next couple of posts, leaders must understand and orient to the readiness level of their followers for given tasks as well as the environments in which they are functioning. They must also understand and orient to their state of teamwork and collaboration both inside and outside their organizations. We’ll talk about internal operations for simplicity sake in this initial example.

Let’s say a follower is quite experienced and has a high level of readiness (ability, motivation, confidence and willingness) to accomplish a task in a standard office environment. We realize that list represents a lot of variables and the term “standard office environment” is ambiguous. Just imagine this situation reflects what we might think of when we look back on the world before computers and networks. For the most part, this would be a Simple or perhaps even a Complicated environment, as defined in our second post in this series, Leadership Orientation in Cyberspace. We assume that in this case leaders can visualize causes and effects of behaviors and actions because they are oriented to their environment.

Now, jump ahead a bit in time and add in some office tools such as desktop computers or word processing equipment that at most connects only the internal office workers (e.g., before the ubiquity of the Internet we have today). Both the followers and the leaders are no longer in what was previously thought of as a “standard office environment.” They both have to adapt to new tools, both hardware and software, as well as new procedures. Neither leaders nor followers now possess the readiness level they had before: the environment has changed. It may not be Complex at this point because new forms of connectivity haven’t fully influenced operational procedures yet, but the way people labor and interact with their work has clearly become more complicated.

In this former time, rules still work and best practices can be discovered and implemented because the connectivity and interaction levels are low…the Complexity LOD hasn’t kicked in yet. Leaders can exercise “simple” cause-and-effect based leadership behaviors that only have to consider follower readiness; the environment is more predictable and can be more easily visualized. However, leaders will still have to adapt to this evolved definition of “standard office environment.”

In more modern times, the massive interconnectivity of cyberspace-based organizations changes the environment even further. Now leaders must not only consider the behaviors and readiness levels of their followers, they must also consider the “behaviors and readiness levels” of different elements in cyberspace operations such as new technology or rules, and equally important, network intruders.

In terms of intruders, leaders of individual organizations typically have little insight as to the ability, motivation, confidence and willingness of these adversaries and the LOD can quickly change to Complex or even Chaotic. Networked collaboration with other organizations becomes a requirement to fend off these threats…as Ramo and others before him point out, it takes a network to fight a network.[1]

The bottom line in this very simple example is that it’s up to the leaders to orient to new environments and to adapt and manage the evolution of the way they and followers interact. While similar orientations and adaptations certainly happened at the transition of the Agricultural Age to the Industrial Age, very few things were as connected and open to attack as they are in cyberspace: the world was not complex in the way we define organizations today.

A very simplified depiction, Figure 1 demonstrates a basic way to visualize the relationship of complexity to adaptive leadership function.

Complexity - Adaptive Leadership Graphic

Figure 1 – Complexity and Adaptive Leadership


Our world has changed and leaders must constantly adapt. They must form new internal and external collaborations to cope with LODs as they are recognized. That’s what leaders in any age must do. As we claimed in the first post, leadership is hard! Leadership self-understanding and orientation to the environment is equally hard. We’re really only just scratching the surface as leaders in cyberspace.

Originally posted on 8/15/2016.

[1] Ramo, J, The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks, Little, Brown and Company, NY, Kindle Edition, 2016. Interestingly, this decree has been a part of military counterterrorism network operations for many years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s