Leading Without Power

I love being alive in this brave, new, wall-less, wireless world.   It is so different, and yet so much better different than the world we’ve come from.

There is no place this difference is felt more than in the area of leadership.  Let me give you an example.

I live in Nashville where we cheer on the Tennessee Titans.  This is an NFL team owned by a guy by the name of Bud Adams.  Last year during one of the games, out of frustration (and some people chalked up to arrogance), Bud Adams gave the entire Nashville home base “the finger.”  And not just one, but multiple “fingers,” a luxury for which he was (and rightfully so) handsomely fined by the NFL.

It’s not what he did that illustrates the new world, it’s that he did it and couldn’t get away with it.  See, even ownership is different.  The NFL owners are learning, and they are going to learn even more as their strike year goes on, that though they may own the team and have their name on the corporate documents, the people who determine their future are not owned by them.  They are the fans of the NFL, the consumers of their products and services.  And they will not be treated poorly, badly, or shabbily.  They don’t always do what they’ve always done because they always did it.

This illustrates the shift in leadership too.  We talk about tops-down leadership and bottom-up leadership, and flat leadership.  Call it whatever you will, but never more in the history of the United States has leadership been more like influence.

How many leaders still operate under the command and control?  Since I’m the leader, I’m the boss, I’m the foreman, or the vice president, or the major stock-owner, I have not only control, but I have command. The truth of the matter is, that’s a short stick and a hollow way to approach any endeavor.

What’s the new art of leadership? It’s the art of inspire and influence. There you go. You can’t command and control and expect high levels of performance, excellence, and off the charts innovation. Yes, it is true that there are still places where command and control can get you compliance.  People will comply.  They will do, under threat of punishment, what you want them to do.  And they won’t do it unless you’re there looking and holding the stick.

The carrot stick days are over.  It is now, lead the way, inspire me to a higher place for a higher purpose. And when you inspire me by the way you live and by the way you lead, then I give you influence. That’s it.  Like it or not, you are now leading without power.  For me, I like it.  Because when I “moo” out loud, my voice carries the message of profound things that matter.  If what you do really doesn’t matter that much anymore, I suggest you change careers and find something you can inspire people with by your words and deeds.  And then once again, you’ll be a leader in the brave, new, wall-less, wireless, worn-out world.

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