Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Acts of Leadership: savoir-relier

Valérie Gauthier wrote a book on leadership in 2014 which I relate to very well.

She says "I believe that leadership is not a technique: it is a state of being that translates into acts. It is in [their] acts of leadership that the leader exists" (2014, p. 2). I particularly like this, as it fits well with Jackson and Parry's idea that leadership “is a process that goes on between all people and that all people can be involved in leadership, almost in spite of their formal position” (2008, p. 83). 

Valérie's phrase "acts of leadership" go straight to the heart of leadership for me. I was first exposed to this leadership idea by Phil Dourado in his 2007 book which focused on acts of leadership, taken anywhere, at any time, by any person.

However, Valérie calls these acts of leadership 'savoir-relier', and explains the concept's source as (2014, p. 2-3):
"I came up with in 1994 as part of a project to define new paradigms for the education of twenty-first-century leaders and managers. Savoir means 'to know' and 'knowledge'; by extension, it means know-how, to know how to be. Relier means the capacity to connect, relate, link, and, by extension, rely on other people and on oneself. The expression can be roughly translated as 'relational intelligence', although the original French also captures notions of knowledge and capacity."

"Savoir-relier is a way to work from tensions by taking critical dimensions of leadership such as trust, resilience, agility, intuition, courage, and complexity and leveraging them to enhance our capacity to navigate the increasingly complex and highly relational world we live in. It is a type of leadership that is marked by humility and intuition, recognizing the importance of human relationships and the value of diversity as a means to drive innovation and performance. It is a tool for approaching and managing complex problems at individual, interpersonal, organizational, and institutional levels."

"Savoir-relier is an act: the act of generating sensible and sustainable relations between different or divergent entities to build sense for individuals and organizations alike. When developed at the individual level, savoir-relier is a capacity. Savoir-relier leaders use their analytical and emotional capacities to build stronger, better connections among members of an organization. They build sense from existing patterns by creating new ones and encouraging initiative and autonomy. When it is adopted across an organization, savoir-relier becomes a mind-set, which generates a collective identity."

"Applied to problem-solving or decision-making issues, savoir-relier underscores a process called the relational circuit, which can be used to generate and regenerate the vision, sense, and energy required to keep pace with today’s challenges. The relational circuit serves as a guiding tool. It helps leaders reorganize the relationships between different elements in a system in order to uncover innovative solutions to problems. It takes the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and rearranges them, even adds some new pieces, to create a coherent and consistent—and renewed—whole."
Valérie says "Savoir-relier in all its incarnations can empower leaders to rise and face challenges, which so often come as calls for change". It allows people to lead as they have the expertise in situations; to step back when there are others who are better placed to lead.

Leadership as it should be, if we can take ego out of the mix.


  • Dorado, Phil (2007). The 60 Second Leader: Everything you need to know about leadership, in 60 second bites. UK: Capstone Publishing Ltd
  • Gauthier, Valérie (2014). Leading with Sense: The Intuitive Power of Savoir-Relier. USA: Stanford University Press
  • Jackson, Brad & Parry, Ken (2008). A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about studying leadership. UK: Sage

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