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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