The Future of Power

I had a minor epiphany this weekend that I would like to share.  I believe we are moving on from the old control based dogma wars, to the new power based dogma wars.  The old dogma wars were waged between nations or between corporations.  Large forces vying for control with each other.  In the new dogma wars the conflict is between governments or corporations and the people.  Centralised forces vying power with the people.

We see the conflict most obviously in the so called Arab Spring – numbers of individuals connected by technology and social media wrestling for power with autocracies.  The aim is not the older model of revolution, replacing one autocrat with another, but replacing the autocrat with a more representative, pluralistic form of governance.  Watch Google Executive Wael Ghonim’s inspiring talk about the Egyptian revolution from the inside.

The same conflict is brewing within companies.  Well educated, digitally native, socially networked, Generation Y are deeply uncomfortable working in conventionally hierarchical work environments.  To get the best out of anyone under about 3o years old companies need to adapt their leadership, their culture and their technology.

Like the rest of us, Generation Y want to discuss everything, have their views valued and respected, ask challenging questions and be inspired.  The difference is that Generation Y are not afraid to do it with authority figures, both as customers and as employees, and they have the tech, tools and networks to help them do it.

As Charles Darwin observed, adaptability is the key to survival.  For governments and businesses it is far safer to adapt to evolution that to challenge it.  For Arab countries, pre-empting revolution with sincere reforms would result in far less bloodshed and less exile amongst ousted regimes than confronting them.  For businesses an equivalent strategy is also true, although few businesses are still autocratic and fewer still use tanks to control their staff.

The key adaptation is in the leadership culture and attitude.  Leaders have to come to terms with the reality that control is an illusion and that at best we have influence.  The illusion of control was far easier to maintain when people were relatively less well educated and less connected.  When leaders migrate from a “control” mindset to an “influence” mindset it can shift the whole culture of an organisation.

With that seemingly simple shift comes the opportunity for real team work, real diversity and real collaboration, all of which significantly enhance innovation and efficiency.  Counter intuitively for some, in business very often, less control leads to improved performance.

At the same time as it is rumbling around the middle east this evolution is rumbling around industry sectors.  Energy, automotive, banking and technology are all experiencing pressure to change from competition, customers, protestors, regulation, staff or a combination of all of them.

Authentic Leadership is a straight forward coaching and training process that can take individual leaders and whole leadership teams on this journey from control to influence.  The results have been startling, businesses where leaders are able to focus on big picture strategy, and trust an empowered organisation to look after the day to day running and innovation, even in a crisis.

I have added a new coaching page to my website and would love to help you build confidence, get your career, business or leadership really working for you.

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With love


Neil Crofts
authentic business
+34 646391384
Skype – neilcrofts


About Neil Crofts

Writer, coach and consultant on authentic business and authentic leadership. Neil has inspired and motivated hundreds organisations and thousands of individuals to their highest potential. Neil has written three published books and numerous e-books. Neil is a coach, facilitator and consultant helping people and businesses find their authentic purpose and use it to inspire and motivate them to be everything that they can be. Neil has raced cars, been self-employed, run a company and sold it, been employed by large companies, experienced growth and contraction at the heart of the dotcom boom, tried changing companies from the inside and from the outside as European Head of Strategy at internet consultancy/rock band Razorfish. Neil has been independent for over 10 years and delivered his Authentic Leadership message to a diverse range of business audiences including people at BP, Shell, Microsoft, Kraft Foods, MSN, Jamie Oliver, South Gloucestershire Council, National Blood Transfusion Service, KaosPilots Business School, Fashion company By Malene Birger, German technology company Eleven.
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4 Responses to The Future of Power

  1. Great post Neil and so true!

  2. Having rather belatedly watched ‘The Corporation’ recently, and also ‘The War You Don’t See’, heard Naomi Klein talk about the Shock Doctrine and Disaster Capitalism, listened to the Government talk about relaxing planning laws in the countryside, let alone the social, economic and environmental crisis we now all seem to be a part of, I can quite believe what you are saying.

    At first glance the ways large corporations and governments see solutions to the problems connected to our planet seem to be at odds to what the feeling is at grassroots level. As one side seeks to continue to support the growth model believing in its infallibility and the markets will cure all, the other side pushes for more and more sustainable solutions and a different way of viewing things altogether.

    Beneath the surface there is however hope, by connecting with individuals within both corporations and governments speaking on a level of humanity and with common concerns and with common purposes it is hoped that the right solutions can be provided for us all, it is the only hope for our people, our planet, our world.

  3. Neil Crofts says:

    Thank you Simon – we see this precisely in the Nuclear vs Renewables debate. The problem with renewables, from a major power utility perspective, is that the barriers to entry are too low and the major utilities loose control of the industry if too many small players get involved.

  4. Iain Neilson says:

    Hi Neil,

    I agree that, where the will of the people is the goal, the role of social media should be to “influence mindset”, as you so eloquently put it. However, in respect of the events in the Middle East and North Africa , I really wonder, to what extent the role of social media is a reflection of the will of the people, rather than the aims of Western governments. Who is really creating the message and directing the actions of the rebels? And to what end?

    What is “freedom”? Is the West truly interested in the rights of the population, or is the prime motivator the security of energy supplies? Where we have seen Western intervention (in Georgia and Libya , for example), is it really a question of human rights? Are we, for some reason, more concerned about the human rights of Libyans than Zimbabweans, or Yemenis, or the people of Myanmar ? If so, why?

    Personally, I am disturbed that social media are cited as the means to freedom of oppressed peoples, where the interests of one group seem to be superior to the rights of others, who are equally oppressed, but where “we” have no economic or political interest.

    In this respect, the future of power seems no different now than in the time of the Roman or the Greek empire. What sort of freedom are these people embracing? What sort of democracy are they preferring, when a dictator is replaced by a despot who happens to suit “our” interests – at least for the time being? If the reason is not energy security, why are “we” not engaged in Somalia , or Chad , Saudi Arabia or Guatemala? Colonel Gaddafi will not permit free and fair elections, but will his successor be any more interested in the will of the people than the government of Iraq or Afghanistan, where regimes have already been overthrown and replaced with people who are no less corrupt than those they replace?

    I know it is futile to look back at what has happened in the past, but it does suggest that politicians and secret service organisations have not learned their lesson, nor will they, as long as someone is paying them to take unwise decisions.

    Who educated and trained Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe? Who supported the Mujahideen, when the Soviets were in Afghanistan? Who supported the Iraqis in the war against Iran? Who supplied chemical weapons and parts for the “Iraqi Supergun”? Who supplies military aircraft to the oil-producing countries (as well as paying huge bribes)? The fact that other countries would otherwise supply weapons to these countries does not make me feel any more comfortable about the issue.

    The fact that Libya is prepared to use tanks and aircraft against its own people is no different to the massacre of civilans in Rwanda or Chad: the only difference is that tanks, aircraft and artillery are easier to destroy than machete-wielding psychopaths. If the Libyans use human shields around every possible target, the allied air attacks with be impossible, without shedding civilian blood.

    When will governments (West and East) learn that deniability is only a reflection of the bad conscience which decision-makers inevitably suffer, when they disguise their actions as humanitarian aid?

    You are right: what is needed is authentic leadership. In my view, that means that ethnic Libyans should be leading by example and rejecting armed conflict as the means of change. Placing “democratic”, western-educated puppets in charge clearly does not guarantee any degree of leadership – look at Hamid Karzai.

    Nor will supporting the Libyan opposition assure any degree of leadership.

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