Jan 29, 2015

You Must Get My Permission to Lead Me


I recently watched the unfolding of several real-life leadership issues as I worked with a company that is ramping up a new business unit, I saw the following play out:
Mid-level supervisors that never made the transition from being a “Manager” to being a “Leader” and struggling to get compliance from their staff
Front-line supervisors visibly uncomfortable following their mid-level supervisor’s style and searching to discover how to lead effectively in a different way
New supervisors that were naturally showing true leadership skills and getting wonderful results
I even saw upper-level executives that exhibited some very powerful, interdependent, trust-based leadership skills and, yet, ignoring that the people who report directly to them have never made it beyond being anything more than managers.

According to the report Emerging Leaders: Build Versus Buy, frontline and mid-level supervisors are the least prepared to effectively perform their jobs and receive the least amount of training. My recent experience validated that report.

Beyond all that, what continues to strike me as interesting is this many times forgotten fact:
When someone is charged with producing results for the organization, they must ask for, and earn, the permission of each and every individual for the privilege to lead them.

There are still workers and staff that believe in Positional Power, Power Distance, Hierarchy, Chain-of-Command, etc. that follow their supervisor because that’s what they are told to do. (These are becoming more and more extinct) There are many supervisors that lead with the perspective that others should and must follow them because of the position and title that they hold. (Unfortunately, these are continuing to be perpetuated) But, here’s question that can help all supervisors at all levels in all organizations:

Why would people who are free moral agents, able to make decisions for themselves, who possess their own unique strengths and creativity, in a country that is built on individualism, follow someone else “Just because their told to”?

As I stated earlier, the people who continue to do what they are told just because of positional power are becoming extinct. The fear and intimidation that worked on past generations is becoming useless and, in fact, counterproductive to every organization’s financial goals. The younger workforce has values that extend beyond the “security” of their job. They have concerns about the environment, helping those less fortunate, being given the opportunity to exercise their creativity and innovation, having a balanced lifestyle, and more. When a supervisor gives a clear vision, shares the larger value it brings to the organization and to the world, demonstrates that they can be trusted at the levels of both ethics and competency, and then asks them to join the journey with them, they can expect for their people to contribute more than their hands and their backs. They will give their hearts and their minds, the parts that their paycheck can’t buy.

Am I saying that there should be total anarchy in businesses, allowing everyone to do their own thing? No! What I’m saying is that I know, without a doubt, that every organization wants to tap into the massive creativity, innovation, and intellectual property that their people individually and collectively possess. I also know that the way to turn the control knob to those resources all the way to “OFF” is to manage them, instead of exercising true leadership.

The company that I was working with prides itself on creating one way to do everything that it does and manages everyone so they do it only that way. They truly believe that this makes them much more efficient. As an outside observer, I can easily state that they are wrong. I uncovered and discovered that there was a huge waste of their people’s intellectual property and physical activity and that there were people who had answers to making the organization function exponentially more efficiently and effectively. The caveat is, will the top executives release the vast resources they have at their disposal by training their supervisors to make the transition from being managers and become leaders?

Creating life in forward motion,

Dr. Edward Lewellen