When we ask a question and let people respond using play, whether it's LEGO bricks or pictures, one of the first things participants notice is that everyone built or chose something different. Play is great for bringing out divergence. But it can also reveal agreement, as we saw with one of our workshops on leadership.

Unless you've been very lucky in your employed life, you've had a nightmare boss. We can swap "awful boss" stories with others and marvel at the many ways bosses, and leaders, can be bad. But, it turns out that bad leaders share some common characteristics. The people who built these models worked in different jobs and industries, and built their models independently, and yet arrived at quite similar models. The archetypal Bad Leader is someone who uses power to belittle and constrain workers, leaving them no sphere of independence, and sparking a bunch of negative emotions. Aaarrgghh, bosses!

In the US, we value freedom and individual autonomy, and a modern corporation is not necessarily a great place to find those things. But we're missing part of the picture here: we need bosses to build their Nightmare Employee!

Above and below, some examples.                                                                                            BANNER, ABOVE: A bad leader has a lot of eyes on everyone, watching everyone to see if they Do It Right, and with a big black shield protecting him from any criticism. All that he does, all his work, adds up to a meaningless jumble of stuff (the stack of differently-colored bricks).

LEFT: I'm working in a dungeon, and there are rats, real rats, that we had to set out traps for (orange bricks). The boss is standing apart, separated, by her design--she just gave orders.

MIDDLE: The leader is driving the organization, but there's an eye (not visible in photo) looking backwards, to go with the leader's constant complaining. There's blockage, and I had to have an exit strategy.

RIGHT: The leader is on top of the stack of bricks, who are all the employees. The leader has all the power, but there's a bridge to freedom.