People Powered or Empowered People?

In times of constant flux, new management ideas hit the business landscape more frequently than ever. Today the business book aisles are filled with flavor of the month buzzwords that tap into the current confusion of would be leaders from “knowledge process outsourcing” to “innovation hubs” to “servant leadership” and more... Which of these ideas are sound and which just play to management insecurities as power shifts to the individual in the connection economy?

Take for example the idea of people being the most crucial component of any organization. While philosophically most would agree that it is intrinsic to the human condition, historically it has meant defined “roles” to serve a closed loop organizational structure. C (fill in the blanks) and everyone else who might be allowed to believe their titles actually mean something as long as they follow orders from the C-types. In pre-connective economic paradigms of life, work, and social constructs it might have been easier to classify “leaders” and “followers” but is that still true? Just as shifting contexts have blurred the lines between advertisers and customers, science and art, logic and intuition, does the same apply to the concept of leadership and servitude?

Recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some of the folks from Thoughtworks and it reaffirmed my beliefs that organizations can indeed use the energies of highly qualified people towards sustainment. Founder Roy Singham’s social experiment is indeed live and well as are similar thoughts mirrored in this Fast Company article.

What I found most interesting, is proof that high level people can actually collaborate and be productive and have a clear advantage if the cause that they are serving is clear. We see the same paradigm in action with entertainment leaders who lead their while creating success individually for those who are along for the same cause/journey. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show and Lorne Michaels of SNL fame immediately come to mind. These guys enable those that work with them towards superstardom if that indeed is their destiny, and exercise control where it matters the most, the quality of their brand's experience. I think the key for these organizations to thrive is the focus and quest for better and better ideas. They recognize the value of innovation as a competitive advantage to their purpose and their organizations seem to assemble almost effortlessly as a result.

I think today’s typical C-type leaders have a lot to learn from the likes of Roy, Jon, Lorne and others who enable their collaborating colleagues to become the best of who they are and operate from a place of trust rather than distrust and control. It’s clear in my mind that this type of thinking is the blueprint for sustainable organizations of the future. Organizations that understand that their cause (synonymous with their brand) is the only reason to get up in the morning, and only work with those who also feel the same way. For me, working with the best of the best means don’t lead your company with distrust and don’t work with people whose jobs you can do. For those of you already participating in (notice I didn’t say “running”) companies like the ones mentioned above, I’m sure you can relate :)

1 Responses to “People Powered or Empowered People?”

  1. # Anonymous SuperMatricks

    Good lord we can relate to that. The question of the type of leadership required for a company might have to do with the area where the company operate and the type of personnality/strength the leader might inherently possess. No?


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