Leading In A World That Just Changed

Technology disrupts; it always has and always will. Tell me something I don't know, you say. Stay with me for the next few minutes as we discuss how the inability of leaders to adapt to that disruption is costing our companies millions of dollars in lost revenue.

You know where you personally reside in the `technology adoption life cycle'. Perhaps you are an `innovator' on most things and if you are a leader, I'm willing to risk a guess that you are a `laggard'. Not me, you respond. "I personally have the latest technology and I ensure my company is equipped with the best technology money can buy". I have no doubt that is the case; where I want to challenge your thinking however, in the area leadership.

I want to suggest that as leaders, we are `laggards' when it comes to adapting a new paradigm required for leading in a world that just changed, a world where the rate of change is nearing exponential proportions. Buckminster Fuller postulated that up until the early 1900's the collective world's knowledge doubled about every 100 years.

By the end of WWII, it was doubling every 25 years, and some believe we are approaching a point soon where the worlds knowledge will double every 12 hours (why worry about `knowledge transfer' when what we know today may be obsolete tomorrow, but that's a topic for another article).

A world that just changed requires a fundamental shift in the way we lead if we want to leverage the technological disruption for the many advantages it offers. For simplicity sake, let's label the original or current leadership paradigm as a transactional leader-ship contract. This transactional leadership contract is made between leader and employee. This contract is governed by a central question: What can you (as employee) provide for me in return for what I (as a leader with the power) can provide to you? The premise of this old leadership paradigm is all about extracting as much performance from people as humanly possible. It's characterized by these three words: stability, predictability and control.

A world that just changed requires a fundamental shift in the way we lead if we want to leverage the technological disruption for the many advantages it offers

Let me ask you, do the words stable and predictable come anywhere near describing the world in which we find ourselves today? Ok, obvious answer. However, this transactional leadership contract continues to dominate the culture in many of our companies and it absolutely needs to change.

A New Leadership Contract
Again, for simplicity sake, let's describe the paradigm change that must occur as a `relational leadership contract'. This relational leadership contract is once again made between leader and employee. This contract however, is governed by a new central question: How can I (as a leader) show up in such a way as to inspire your (the employees') humanity? The premise of this new paradigm suggests that how we show up as leaders can inspire others to offer the best of being human. It's characterized by these three words: clarity, resilience and trust.

Making the Shift
Allow me to suggest three ways in which leaders can shift from the antiquated `transactional' leadership paradigm to the essential `relational' leadership paradigm: 1) Let go of the power. 2) Lead like a Coach and 3) Lead from the Heart.

1) Let go of the power. The phrase, `knowledge is power' rings true with the `laggard' crowd of leaders. However, knowledge is free, prolific and incredibly accessible. The idea then is to leverage the prolific knowledge to create and inspire leaders at all levels in your organization. We must come to trust people to make decisions that are aligned with our vision, mission and values. This is where we can provide clarity. It's our responsibility to connect what people are doing daily to `our mission' and make the vision so clear that it can be used to guide decision making very deep in the organization. Then, let people use their access to the available knowledge to make decisions for themselves.

2) Lead like a coach. Sounds cliché I know, and think about it. Transactional paradigm leaders run in during the middle of the play and take over the role of quarterback. Leading like a coach requires that we observe the `play' and then guide, encourage, course-correct and inspire our teams, not execute for them. The best way to do this is to learn to be inspired by them. In other words, as you observe their performance, be inspired by it.

3) Lead from the Heart. In Mark Crowley's book by the same name, he says the missing link in employee engagement is the heart... the heart of the leader. The transactional leadership paradigm suggests the heart has no place in business execution. The relational leadership paradigm would imply it's all about the heart. Inspiring the humanity in others originates from a heart place. Leading from the heart requires leaders to spend time daily, disconnecting from electronic devices and looking deep into their own hearts. Leaders who lead from the heart make developing emotional intelligence a high priority. They see every human interaction as an opportunity to connect, be inspired and lift others, no matter what's going on in our crazy change world.

My call to action to you is: model the behaviors of letting go of the power, lead like a coach and lead from the heart and watch how fast you can create an environment where you are inspiring greatness in those who choose to follow you.